Understanding nontuberculous mycobacterial lung disease: It's been a long time coming

David E. Griffith, Timothy R. Aksamit

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

24 Scopus citations


With a surprising predictability, most studies and reviews addressing therapy for nontuberculous mycobacterial (NTM) lung disease either start or end by mentioning the paucity of data from randomized and controlled trials. That is a legitimate criticism for NTM lung disease therapy, but it also somehow seems to influence attitudes toward all aspects of NTM investigation. Certainly the study of NTM diseases in general and NTM lung disease in particular is a recent development. Previously, NTM were viewed as minor, if inconvenient, pathogens similar to Mycobacterium tuberculosis. However, over the last three decades, NTM have emerged as increasingly important pathogens that are clearly different compared with tuberculosis. Although there has been frustratingly slow progress in the treatment of NTM diseases, in contrast there has unquestionably been impressive progress in almost every other realm of investigation into NTM disease. Our understanding of NTM lung disease a) pathophysiology, including mechanisms of organism acquisition, b) epidemiology, including estimates of disease prevalence, c) mycobacteriology, including application of molecular laboratory techniques and matrix-assisted laser desorption ionization-time of flight (MALDI-TOF) mass spectrometry, and d) even treatment strategies, including the recognition of innate drug resistance mechanisms, has immeasurably and permanently changed and advanced the landscape for NTM lung disease. It is no longer necessary to apologize for the state of NTM lung disease knowledge and understanding, but rather it is time to recognize the great distance we have travelled over the last 30 years.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number2797
StatePublished - 2016

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Immunology and Microbiology
  • General Pharmacology, Toxicology and Pharmaceutics
  • General Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology


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