Diagnosis and treatment of disease caused by nontuberculous mycobacteria. This official statement of the American Thoracic Society was approved by the Board of Directors, March 1997. Medical Section of the American Lung Association

Am J Respir Crit Care Med. 1997 Aug;156(2 Pt 2):S1-25. doi: 10.1164/ajrccm.156.2.atsstatement.


Diagnostic criteria of nontuberculous mycobacterial lung disease in HIV-seropositive and -seronegative hosts. The following criteria apply to symptomatic patients with infiltrate, nodular or cavitary disease, or a high resolution computed tomography scan that shows multifocal bronchiectasis and/or multiple small nodules. A. If three sputum/bronchial wash results are available from the previous 12 mo: 1. three positive cultures with negative AFB smear results or 2. two positive cultures and one positive AFB smear B. If only one bronchial wash is available: 1. positive culture with a 2+, 3+, or 4+ AFB smear or 2+, 3+, or 4+ growth on solid media C. If sputum/bronchial wash evaluations are nondiagnostic or another disease cannot be excluded: 1. transbronchial or lung biopsy yielding a NTM or 2. biopsy showing mycobacterial histopathologic features (granulomatous inflammation and/or AFB) and one or more sputums or bronchial washings are positive for an NTM even in low numbers.

Comments: these criteria fit best with M. avium complex, M. abscessus, and M. kansasii. Too little is known of other NTM to be certain how applicable these criteria will be. At least three respiratory samples should be evaluated from each patient. Other reasonable causes for the disease should be excluded. Expert consultation should be sought when diagnostic difficulties are encountered.

Publication types

  • Guideline
  • Practice Guideline
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • AIDS-Related Opportunistic Infections / diagnosis
  • AIDS-Related Opportunistic Infections / drug therapy
  • AIDS-Related Opportunistic Infections / etiology
  • Anti-Bacterial Agents / adverse effects
  • Anti-Bacterial Agents / therapeutic use
  • Antitubercular Agents / adverse effects
  • Antitubercular Agents / therapeutic use
  • Drug Therapy, Combination
  • HIV-1
  • Humans
  • Lymphadenitis / diagnosis
  • Lymphadenitis / drug therapy
  • Microbial Sensitivity Tests
  • Mycobacterium Infections, Nontuberculous / diagnosis*
  • Mycobacterium Infections, Nontuberculous / drug therapy
  • Mycobacterium Infections, Nontuberculous / etiology
  • Nontuberculous Mycobacteria / drug effects
  • Nontuberculous Mycobacteria / isolation & purification


  • Anti-Bacterial Agents
  • Antitubercular Agents