Goal 2: Reduce Human Disease

Nontuberculous mycobacterial (NTM) lung infections

The true prevalence of Nontuberculous mycobacterial (NTM) lung infections remains incompletely understood, however several aspects of NTM lung disease prevalence are becoming more clear. NTM lung disease is currently more common in the U.S. than TB (by a factor of 3) and has consistently been shown to be increasing in prevalence. When viewed in the context of likely universal environmental NTM exposure this increasing prevalence can be viewed as an emerging public health problem.

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Is this idea a Compelling Question (CQ) or Critical Challenge (CC)? : Critical Challenge (CC)

Details on the impact of addressing this CQ or CC :

NTM lung disease is most common among older and female patients with estimated prevalences as high as 50-60 cases per 100,000 in this group and can be seen in this context as a women’s health issue.  While it may appear paradoxical, NTM lung disease studies would both profoundly change outcomes for a relatively rare condition overall, but would also benefit, in a potentially profound way, a large number of patients in a selected population (older female patients) in which the disease is not so rare.   To date there has been no significant funding for any aspect of NTM lung disease outside of limited support from the pharmaceutical industry.  The studies that have been done to date are largely single center/institution studies with relatively small numbers of patients.  Again, the few collaborative studies that have been done were accomplished with support from the pharmaceutical industry.  NTM lung diseases, and associated lung diseases such as bronchiectasis have not attracted the interest or support of major non-industry funding sources.

Feasibility and challenges of addressing this CQ or CC :

Essentially every aspect of Nontuberculous Mycobacterial (NTM) lung disease is associated with some level of controversy. The diagnostic guidelines were adopted primarily as a result of experience with common NTM pathogens such as Mycobacterium avium complex (MAC), M. kansasii , and M. abscessus. The relevance of the diagnostic guidelines for other potential NTM pathogens, especially rarely encountered organisms (in the U.S.) such as M. xenopi and organisms usually associated with specimen contamination such as M. fortuitum , is untested and unknown. The treatment of NTM lung disease is almost entirely based on case series, both retrospective and prospective, with consensus on basic treatment concepts. Treatment outcomes remain unsatisfactory for many pathogens including the most common, MAC, and prospective treatment trials are needed to establish not just optimal treatment regimens but the roles of agents in common use, such as clofazimine, the fluoroquinolones and inhaled amikacin, of unproven value.  Other basic studies including radiographic and pulmonary function evolution for treated and untreated disease and long term natural history of treated and untreated NTM lung disease patients are lacking.

Name of idea submitter and other team members who worked on this idea : American Thoracic Society member


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Idea No. 1625