Geographic Distribution of Nontuberculous Mycobacterial Species Identified among Clinical Isolates in the United States, 2009-2013

Ann Am Thorac Soc. 2017 Nov;14(11):1655-1661. doi: 10.1513/AnnalsATS.201611-860OC.


Rationale: Nontuberculous mycobacteria are an important cause of morbidity in the United States, although patient outcomes vary greatly by species. Currently, nationally representative data on the distribution of mycobacterial species from clinical isolates are limited.

Objectives: Using a national hospitalization database capturing microbiologic data for nearly 6 million patient encounters, we describe the geographic distribution of, and patient demographic features associated with, clinical mycobacterial isolates in the United States.

Methods: Linked demographic and microbiologic data from the Premier Healthcare Database were extracted for all patient encounters from 2009 to 2013. Patients with at least one positive potentially pathogenic nontuberculous mycobacterial culture were identified as cases. The period prevalence was calculated, and patient-, encounter-, and hospital-level factors were analyzed. Regional differences in species distribution were analyzed; a subanalysis was conducted among patients with International Classification of Diseases, Ninth Revision, codes for pulmonary nontuberculous mycobacterial disease. Significant differences were assessed (P < 0.05).

Results: Of 5,928,830 unique patients included during the 5-year study period, 7,812 (0.13%) had at least one positive nontuberculous mycobacterial culture. The mean age of cases was 64 years (range, <1-89 yr), and most were female (52%) and white (70%). Hospitals with cases were more often labeled "urban" (96%), "teaching" (56%), and had at least 500 beds (78%). Species distribution differed significantly by geographic area. Mycobacterium avium complex ranged from 61 to 91% of isolates and were most frequent in the South and Northeast regions; M. abscessus/M. chelonae ranged from 2 to 18% of isolates and were most frequent in the West; and other species, including M. fortuitum and M. kansasii, ranged from 7 to 26% and were also most frequent in the West.

Conclusions: Significant geographic variation exists in the distribution of nontuberculous mycobacterial species in the United States. Whereas M. avium complex was the most common species isolated in the South, M. abscessus/M. chelonae was proportionately higher in the West. Greater clinical awareness in regions with increased levels of harder-to-treat mycobacteria are needed, given differences in treatment options and implications for patient outcomes.

Keywords: United States; hospital database; nontuberculous mycobacteria.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Demography
  • Female
  • Geography
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Mycobacterium Infections, Nontuberculous / epidemiology*
  • Mycobacterium avium Complex / classification
  • Mycobacterium avium Complex / isolation & purification*
  • Prevalence
  • Retrospective Studies
  • United States / epidemiology
  • Young Adult