JOURNAL ARTICLE

Non-tuberculous mycobacterial infection among lung transplant recipients: a 15-year cohort study

B M Knoll, S Kappagoda, R R Gill, H J Goldberg, K Boyle, L R Baden, A L Fuhlbrigge, F M Marty
Transplant Infectious Disease: An Official Journal of the Transplantation Society 2012, 14 (5): 452-60
22676720

BACKGROUND: The incidence of infection with non-tuberculous mycobacteria (NTM) after lung transplant is insufficiently defined. Data on the impact of NTM infection on lung transplant survival are conflicting.

METHODS: To quantify the incidence and outcomes of colonization and disease with NTM in patients after lung transplantation, the medical records, chest imaging, and microbiology data of 237 consecutive lung transplant recipients between 1990 and 2005 were reviewed. American Thoracic Society (ATS)/Infectious Diseases Society of America and Centers for Disease Control criteria were used to define pulmonary NTM disease and NTM surgical-site infections (SSI), respectively. Incidence rates for NTM colonization and disease were calculated. Comparisons of median survival were done using the log-rank test.

RESULTS: NTM were isolated from 53 of 237 patients (22.4%) after lung transplantation over a median of 25.2 months of follow-up. The incidence rate of NTM isolation was 9.0/100 person-years (95% confidence interval [CI), 6.8-11.8), and the incidence rate of NTM disease was 1.1/100 person-years (95% CI 0.49-2.2). The most common NTM isolated was Mycobacterium avium complex (69.8%), followed by Mycobacterium abscessus (9.4%), and Mycobacterium gordonae (7.5%). Among these 53 patients, only 2 patients met ATS criteria for pulmonary disease and received treatment for M. avium. One patient had recurrent colonization after treatment, the other one was cured. Four of the 53 patients developed SSI, 3 caused by M. abscessus and 1 caused by Mycobacterium chelonae. Three of these patients had persistent infection requiring chronic suppressive therapy and one died from progressive disseminated disease. A total of 47 (89%) patients who met microbiologic but not radiographic criteria for pulmonary infection were not treated and were found to have only transient colonization. Median survival after transplantation was not different between patients with transient colonization who did not receive treatment and those who never had NTM isolated.

CONCLUSION: Episodic isolation of NTM from lung transplant recipients is common. Most isolates occur among asymptomatic patients and are transient. Rapidly growing NTM can cause significant SSI, which may be difficult to cure. NTM disease rate is higher among lung transplant recipients than in the general population. In this cohort, NTM isolation was not associated with increased post-transplantation mortality.

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