Paul F. Harron Jr. Lung Center

Mycobacterial Disease & Chronic Respiratory Infections

Overview

Nontuberculous mycobacterial lung diseases are chronic infections that can be difficult to successfully diagnose and treat. The pulmonologists at the Harron Lung Center's Nontuberculous Mycobacterial Disease Program are experts in identifying, diagnosing and treating these illnesses.

Understanding the Disease

  • Nontuberculous mycobacterial diseases are often caused by bacteria found in water and soil. These diseases are not contagious and can't be spread from person-to-person.
  • Most individuals are not affected by the bacteria, while others may develop serious infections.
  • Anyone can develop nontuberculous mycobacterial infection, but experts agree that women and individuals with underlying lung disease are more prone to developing these infections.

Thorough Evaluation Leads to Accurate Diagnosis

Nontuberculous mycobacterial diseases can be difficult to diagnose. Patients experience symptoms similar to those of other lung disease and illnesses. Symptoms can include:

  • Fatigue
  • Cough
  • Weight loss without dieting
  • Decreased appetite
  • Fever
  • Bloody sputum

Patients with suspected nontuberculous mycobacterial disease may need to undergo a series of testing to receive an accurate diagnosis. Testing is individualized, and could include:

  • Lab work
  • CT scan
  • Bronchoscopy

It is very important to correctly diagnose nontuberculous mycobacterial disease. Because the bacteria are so common in our environment, they are often found by accident in lung samples, even if there is no true infection. It is important for pulmonologists to determine if there is a true mycobacterial infection, as these diseases are typically treated with very powerful antibiotics. An incorrect diagnosis could unnecessarily expose a patient to toxic medicines.