Non-tuberculous mycobacteria: baseline data from three sites in Papua New Guinea, 2010-2012

Western Pac Surveill Response J. 2015 Nov 24;6(4):24-9. doi: 10.5365/WPSAR.2015.6.2.004. eCollection 2015 Oct-Dec.


Objective: To determine the proportion of non-tuberculous mycobacteria (NTM) in samples of pulmonary tuberculosis (TB) cases from Papua New Guinea who were diagnosed using acid-fast microscopy.

Methods: As part of a case detection study for TB, conducted in three provincial hospitals in Papua New Guinea, sputum samples of suspected tuberculous cases aged 15 years or older were collected from November 2010 to July 2012. Mycobacterial species isolated from sputum and grown in culture were examined to distinguish between NTM and the Mycobacterium tuberculosis complex (MTBC).

Results: NTM were detected in 4% (9/225) of sputum samples grown in culture. Five (2.2%) of them were identified as NTM only and four (1.8%) were identified as mixed cultures containing both MTBC and NTM. Four different NTM species were identified; M. fortuitum, M. intracellulare, M. terrae and M. avium.

Discussion: This is the first report from Papua New Guinea identifying NTM in three different locations. As NTM cannot be distinguished from M. tuberculosis through smear microscopy, the presence of NTM can lead to a false-positive diagnosis of tuberculosis. The prevalence of NTM should be determined and a diagnostic algorithm developed to confirm acid-fast bacilli in a smear as M. tuberculosis.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Microscopy / methods
  • Middle Aged
  • Mycobacterium Infections, Nontuberculous / epidemiology*
  • Nontuberculous Mycobacteria / isolation & purification*
  • Papua New Guinea / epidemiology
  • Prevalence
  • Tuberculosis, Pulmonary / epidemiology
  • Tuberculosis, Pulmonary / microbiology*
  • Young Adult