Nontuberculous Mycobacteria (NTM) Infections
- Nontuberculous mycobacteria (NTM) are mycobacteria other than M. tuberculosis (the cause of tuberculosis) and M. leprae (the cause of leprosy). NTM are also referred to as atypical mycobacteria, mycobacteria other than tuberculosis (MOTT), or environmental mycobacteria.
- Although anyone can get an NTM infection, NTM are opportunistic pathogens placing some groups at increased risk, including those with underlying lung disease or depressed immune systems. These pathogens are typically not transmitted person-to-person. However, person-to-person transmission of M. abscessus has been reported in patients with cystic fibrosis.
- NTM are environmental organisms that can be found in soil, dust, and water including natural water sources (such as lakes, rivers, and streams) and municipal water sources (such as water that people drink or shower in). NTM can form difficult-to-eliminate biofilms, which are collections of microorganisms that stick to each other, and adhere to surfaces in moist environments, such as the insides of plumbing in buildings.
- NTMs can cause infections in a wide variety of body sites, most commonly the lungs and in the following areas:
- Skin and soft tissue (typically following surgery, trauma, injection of medications or other substances)
- Device associated infections (e.g., central line associated bloodstream infection, exit site infections, pacemaker pocket site infections, etc.)
- Lymph nodes (most commonly in children)
- Blood or other usually sterile locations in the body (disseminated) (most commonly in immunocompromised patients, such as those with HIV or AIDS, but may also be due to invasive medical devices or procedures)
- Symptoms can be vague and nonspecific, such as:
- Weight loss
- Night sweats
- Decreased appetite
- Loss of energy
- Other symptoms depend on the site of infection and can include cough, shortness of breath, blood in the sputum, and rashes.
Page last reviewed: August 12, 2019