Increasing numbers of cystic fibrosis (CF) and non-CF bronchiectasis patients are affected by pulmonary nontuberculous mycobacteria (NTM) infection worldwide. Two species of NTM account for up to 95% of the pulmonary NTM infections: Mycobacterium avium complex (MAC) and Mycobacterium abscessus complex (MABSC). Diagnosis of pulmonary NTM infection is based on criteria specified in the 2007 American Thoracic Society/Infectious Disease Society of America (ATS/IDSA) guidelines. While many initial positive cultures do not progress to active NTM disease, even a single positive NTM sputum culture obtained from higher risk groups such as classic CF or older women with bronchiectasis and very low body mass index should be closely monitored for progressive disease. Macrolides remain the most effective agents available against MAC and MABSC. Infection with MABSC may be associated with worse clinical outcomes, as more than half of MABSC isolates have inducible macrolide resistance conferred by an active erm(41) gene. Of growing concern in CF is that MABSC is becoming more common than MAC, seems to target younger patients with classic CF, and is more difficult to manage, often requiring prolonged courses of intravenous antibiotics. Recurrence rates of NTM after initial successful treatment remain high, likely due to nonmodifiable risk factors raising the question of whether secondary prophylaxis is feasible. More rapid and readily available methods for detecting inducible macrolide resistance and better in vitro susceptibility testing methods for other drugs that correlate with clinical responses are needed. This is crucial to identify more effective regimens of existing drugs and for development of novel drugs for NTM infection.
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