Diagnosis and Treatment of Nontuberculous Mycobacterial Lung Disease

J Korean Med Sci. 2016 May;31(5):649-59. doi: 10.3346/jkms.2016.31.5.649. Epub 2016 Mar 22.


Nontuberculous mycobacteria (NTM) are ubiquitous organisms; their isolation from clinical specimens does not always indicate clinical disease. The incidence of NTM lung diseases has been increasing worldwide. Although the geographic diversity of NTM species is well known, Mycobacterium avium complex (MAC), M. abscessus complex (MABC), and M. kansasii are the most commonly encountered and important etiologic organisms. Two distinct types of NTM lung diseases have been reported, namely fibrocavitary and nodular bronchiectatic forms. For laboratory diagnosis of NTM lung diseases, both liquid and solid media cultures and species-level identification are strongly recommended to enhance growth detection and determine the clinical relevance of isolates. Treatment for NTM lung diseases consists of a multidrug regimen and a long course of therapy, lasting more than 12 months after negative sputum conversion. For MAC lung disease, several new macrolide-based regimens are now recommended. For nodular bronchiectatic forms of MAC lung diseases, an intermittent three-time-weekly regimen produces outcomes similar to those of daily therapy. Treatment of MABC lung disease is very difficult, requiring long-term use of parenteral agents in combination with new macrolides. Treatment outcomes are much better for M. massiliense lung disease than for M. abscessus lung disease. Thus, precise identification of species in MABC infection is needed for the prediction of antibiotic response. Likewise, increased efforts to improve treatment outcomes and develop new agents for NTM lung disease are needed.

Keywords: Mycobacterium abscessus; Mycobacterium avium Complex; Mycobacterium kansasii; Nontuberculous Mycobacteria.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Anti-Bacterial Agents / therapeutic use
  • Drug Therapy, Combination
  • Humans
  • Lung Diseases / diagnosis*
  • Lung Diseases / drug therapy
  • Lung Diseases / epidemiology
  • Mycobacterium Infections, Nontuberculous / diagnosis*
  • Mycobacterium Infections, Nontuberculous / drug therapy
  • Mycobacterium Infections, Nontuberculous / epidemiology
  • Mycobacterium avium Complex / isolation & purification
  • Sputum / microbiology


  • Anti-Bacterial Agents