What You Need To Know About NTM Lung Disease

What Is NTM Disease?

NTM lung disease is caused by nontuberculous mycobacteria that are naturally found in soil and water. When the organism is inhaled by a susceptible person a slow but destructive disease can develop. NTM infections can quickly become a chronic condition that requires continuous ongoing care to temper; however, in less severe cases treatment may not even be required. A typical treatment regime consists of antibiotic administration for at least 12 months, and sometimes more.


Nontuberculous mycobacteria are found naturally in soil and water, and over 190 different species exist. In most cases these are harmless and are expelled from the lungs naturally, but some susceptible individuals could contract an infection of the airways and lung tissue that then develops into the disease. If not treated a cough will develop along with fatigue, weight loss, and shortness of breath.

The Effects Of NTM

A couple of the most common symptoms of NTM can include:

  • Persistent coughing, in some cases, coughing up blood.
  • Shortness of breath.
  • Fever.
  • Weight loss.
  • Fatigue.
  • Night sweats.

Risk Factors Of NTM

In most cases nontuberculous mycobacteria is harmless and easily expelled; however, there are a couple of risk factors that make infection more likely.

  • Age. NTM infections are more likely to arise in older individuals, as their bodies may be less likely to easily expel the bacteria.
  • Preexisting Conditions. Underlying problems such as bronchiectasis, COPD, or other conditions that cause lung damage, can heighten the chance of an individual developing an infection.
  • Weakened Immune System. A weakened immune system can also increase the likelihood of contracting an infection, and the body will have a lower chance of fighting it off at the beginning.
  • Acid Reflux. Because this disorder causes gastric contents to leak into the lungs, it can cause an increased risk as well.
  • Environment. Spending time in outdoor hot tubs and pools, along with garden plots, can increase the likelihood of being exposed to the bacteria.


NTM Lung Disease is manageable and treatable with the proper intervention. If you think you may have been exposed, and are experiencing symptoms similar to the above, talk to your doctor about getting tested. After a regime of antibiotics you can get to feeling and breathing much easier.

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