Article Text

Download PDFPDF

Non-tuberculous mycobacteria in patients with bronchiectasis
  1. M Wickremasinghe,
  2. L J Ozerovitch,
  3. G Davies,
  4. T Wodehouse,
  5. M V Chadwick,
  6. S Abdallah,
  7. P Shah,
  8. R Wilson
  1. Host Defence Unit, Royal Brompton Hospital, London, UK
  1. Correspondence to:
    Dr R Wilson
    Host Defence Unit, Royal Brompton Hospital, Sydney Street, London SW3 6NP, UK;


Background: Non-tuberculous mycobacteria (NTM) are ubiquitous environmental organisms. Patients with pre-existing lung damage are susceptible to NTM, but their prevalence in bronchiectasis is unknown. Distinguishing between lung colonisation and disease can be difficult.

Methods: A prospective study of 100 patients with bronchiectasis was undertaken to evaluate the prevalence of NTM in sputum, and a retrospective analysis of clinical, microbiological, lung function and radiology data of our clinic patients with NTM sputum isolates over 11 years was performed.

Results: The prevalence of NTM in this population of patients with bronchiectasis was 2%. Patients in the retrospective study were divided into three groups: bronchiectasis + multiple NTM isolates (n = 25), bronchiectasis + single isolates (n = 23), and non-bronchiectasis + multiple isolates (n = 22). Mycobacterium avium complex (MAC) species predominated in patients with bronchiectasis compared with non-bronchiectasis lung disease (72% v 9%, p<0.0001). Single isolates were also frequently MAC (45.5%). Multiple isolates in bronchiectasis were more often smear positive on first sample than single isolates (p<0.0001). NTM were identified on routine screening samples or because of suggestive radiology. No particular bronchiectasis aetiology was associated with an NTM. Pseudomonas aeruginosa and Staphylococcus aureus were frequently co-cultured. Six (25%) of multiple NTM patients had cavities of which five were due to MAC. Half the patients with multiple isolates were treated, mostly due to progressive radiology.

Conclusions: NTM are uncommon in non-cystic fibrosis bronchiectasis. Routine screening identifies otherwise unsuspected patients. MAC is the most frequent NTM isolated.

  • AFB, acid fast bacilli
  • FEV1, forced expiratory flow in 1 second
  • MAC, Mycobacterium avium complex
  • MEF50, maximum expiratory flow with 50% of vital capacity remaining in lung
  • NTM, non-tuberculous mycobacteria
  • RV, residual volume
  • Tlco, carbon monoxide transfer factor
  • non-tuberculous mycobacteria
  • bronchiectasis
  • Mycobacterium avium complex
  • lung function
View Full Text

Statistics from


  • Published Online First 14 October 2005

  • Competing interests: none declared.

Request Permissions

If you wish to reuse any or all of this article please use the link below which will take you to the Copyright Clearance Center’s RightsLink service. You will be able to get a quick price and instant permission to reuse the content in many different ways.