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Pathogenesis of nontuberculous mycobacterial infections

David E Griffith, MD
Section Editor
C Fordham von Reyn, MD
Deputy Editor
Allyson Bloom, MD


Mycobacteria other than Mycobacterium tuberculosis and Mycobacterium leprae are generally free-living organisms that are ubiquitous in the environment (table 1). They have been recovered from surface water, tap water, soil, domestic and wild animals, milk, and food products. Although nontuberculous mycobacteria (NTM) can inhabit body surfaces and secretions without causing disease, they can, in broad terms, induce four distinct clinical syndromes. (See "Overview of nontuberculous mycobacterial infections in HIV-negative patients".)

Progressive pulmonary disease is usually associated with bronchiectasis or chronic obstructive lung disease and caused primarily by Mycobacterium avium complex (MAC) Mycobacterium kansasii and Mycobacterium abscessus, especially in older persons.

Superficial lymphadenitis, especially cervical lymphadenitis, in children is caused mostly by MAC, Mycobacterium scrofulaceum, and, in northern Europe, Mycobacterium malmoense (M. tuberculosis is a more common cause of lymphadenitis in tuberculosis-endemic countries).

Disseminated disease can occur in severely immunocompromised patients.

Skin and soft tissue infection usually is a consequence of direct inoculation.


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Literature review current through: Sep 2016. | This topic last updated: Jul 14, 2015.
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