Mycobacterium abscessus and other nontuberculous mycobacteria: evolving respiratory pathogens in cystic fibrosis: a case report and review

Don Hayes
Southern Medical Journal 2005, 98 (6): 657-61
Cystic fibrosis (CF) is a risk factor for the development of nontuberculous mycobacteria (NTM) infection. Prevalence of these organisms varies from center to center with the predominance of affected patients being in the adult population. The difficulty in diagnosing NTM infection in CF involves the overlap between signs and symptoms of underlying CF lung disease with its variable pathogens and the signs and symptoms attributable to pulmonary disease caused by NTM. Bacterial overgrowth, especially with Pseudomonas aeruginosa, is problematic, leading to the difficulty in recovering mycobacteria from sputum. There is varying opinion whether the presence of NTM in pulmonary secretions of patients with CF indicates infection or colonization from an environmental organism. This report describes a 14-year-old asymptomatic female patient with CF with minimal bronchiectasis on high-resolution computed tomography scan of the chest who clinically deteriorated over the next 29 months after acquiring Mycobacterium abscessus to the point of being listed for lung transplantation. As more is discovered about NTM, the pathogenicity and virulence of these organisms should be considered in the setting of CF and treated.

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