Environmental sources of nontuberculous mycobacteria

Clin Chest Med. 2015 Mar;36(1):35-41. doi: 10.1016/j.ccm.2014.10.003. Epub 2014 Nov 6.


Nontuberculous mycobacteria (NTM) include over 150 species. The source for human infection is the environment. NTM are normal inhabitants of soil and drinking water. NTM grow and persist in many buildings. They are not contaminants of drinking water, but members of the natural drinking water microbial population. Infection occurs because humans share the same habitats. Because the ecology, antibiotic susceptibility, and virulence of individual species differs, identifying NTM isolates to species is important. Treatment requires multiple antibiotics. NTM patients are innately sensitive to NTM infection, resulting in reinfection. Knowledge of the sources of NTM can reduce exposure to environmental NTM.

Keywords: Aerosolization; Drinking water; Mycobacterium; Soil.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Environmental Exposure
  • Humans
  • Mycobacterium Infections, Nontuberculous / microbiology*
  • Nontuberculous Mycobacteria / pathogenicity*
  • Soil Microbiology
  • Water Microbiology
  • Water Supply