Nontuberculous Mycobacteria Infection: Source and Treatment

  • Justin M. HutchisonEmail author
  • Ya Zhang
  • Stephen Waller
Bronchiectasis (A Schmid, Section Editor)
Part of the following topical collections:
  1. Topical Collection on Bronchiectasis


Purpose of Review

This review offers current understanding of the source of nontuberculous mycobacteria (NTM) infections especially in relation to engineered water systems. It provides a summary of current treatment methods and highlights novel treatment options being developed.

Recent Findings

Nontuberculous mycobacteria (NTM) infections are thought to originate from inhalation or aspiration of NTM from contaminated drinking water. While significant NTM metagenomics analysis and culturing of environmental samples have been performed, the bias of culture independent and dependent techniques along with the ubiquity of NTM organisms in the environment has made connecting the pathogen reservoir and route of transmission difficult. Recent advances in NTM DNA extraction protocols and NTM high-throughput sequencing methods suggest inhalation and aspiration of drinking water remain a critical route of transmission.


The development of pulmonary diseases associated with NTM infections is complex. Patients with CF and non-CF bronchiectasis are susceptible to NTM infections, whereas the development of bronchiectasis may be due to long-term exposure to NTM. Source attribution of NTM infections is critical, especially if the source includes engineered water systems such as drinking water distribution networks and clinical and non-clinical premise plumbing. However, source identification requires more work. Current NTM treatment therapies were developed for other indications. New and combined therapies are being developed, but are insufficient to address growing antibiotic resistance and diversity of NTM infections.


Bronchiectasis NTM Drinking water Cystic fibrosis 


Author Contribution

JMH and SW had the idea for the article. JMH, YZ, and SW performed the literature search. JMH, YZ, and SW drafted and critically revised the work.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of Interest

Ya Zhang, Stephen Waller, and Justin M. Hutchison declare no conflict of interest. The multicenter prospective trial comparing two- and three-drug therapy is supported by the Patient Centered Outcomes Research institute (PCORI).

Human and Animal Rights and Informed Consent

This article does not contain any studies with human or animal subjects performed by any of the authors.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Justin M. Hutchison
    • 1
    Email author
  • Ya Zhang
    • 2
  • Stephen Waller
    • 3
  1. 1.Department of Civil, Environmental, and Architectural EngineeringUniversity of KansasLawrenceUSA
  2. 2.Institute for Environmental Genomics, Department of Microbiology and Plant BiologyUniversity of OklahomaNormanUSA
  3. 3.Division of Infectious DiseasesUniversity of Kansas Medical CenterKansas CityUSA

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