An overview of pulmonary infections due to rapidly growing mycobacteria in South Asia and impressions from a subtropical region

Int J Mycobacteriol. Jan-Mar 2020;9(1):62-70. doi: 10.4103/ijmy.ijmy_179_19.


Background: Rapidly growing mycobacteria (RGM) comprise nearly half of the validated species of nontuberculous mycobacteria (NTM) and have been reported to have a higher incidence in Asia as compared to Europe and America. There is limited information on RGM infections from South Asia. Hence, the present study aimed to ascertain the incidence of pulmonary infections due to RGM in Delhi and to review the status of available information on the prevalence of RGM in South Asia, a region endemic for tuberculosis.

Methods: We analyzed 933 mycobacterial isolates obtained from pulmonary samples in Delhi and performed species identification by polymerase chain reaction (PCR)-restriction analysis (restriction fragment length polymorphism) and line probe assay. Drug susceptibility testing (DST) was performed by broth microdilution method. We also reviewed reports available on pulmonary infections in South Asia, attributed to RGM.

Results: Of the 933 mycobacterial isolates studied, NTM were identified in 152 (16.3%). Of these, 65/152 (42.8%) were RGM comprising Mycobacterium fortuitum (34/65; 52.3%), Mycobacterium abscessus (25/65; 38.5%), Mycobacterium chelonae (3/65; 4.61%), Mycobacterium mucogenicum (2/65; 3.1%), and Mycobacterium smegmatis (1/65; 1.5%). On applying the American Thoracic Society/Infectious Diseases Society of America guidelines, 11/25 (44%) M. abscessus, 3/3 (100%) M. chelonae, and both isolates of M. mucogenicum were found to be clinically relevant. DST revealed that maximum susceptibility of the RGM was seen to linezolid, clarithromycin, and amikacin.

Conclusions: Of the RGM isolated in the present study, 16/65 (24.6%) were found to be clinically relevant. Hence, it is important to recognize these organisms as potential pathogens to identify patients with RGM disease to initiate appropriate therapy.

Keywords: India; South Asia; nontuberculous mycobacteria; rapidly growing mycobacteria; rapidly growing mycobacteria pulmonary infections.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't