What Are Non-tuberculous Mycobacteria (NTM)?
Non-tuberculous Mycobacteria are mycobacteria other than Mycobacterium tuberculosis and M. leprae, and are also referred to as atypical mycobacteria, mycobacteria other than tuberculosis (MOTT), or environmental mycobacteria.
Where Are Non-tuberculous Mycobacteria Commonly Found?
Non-tuberculous Mycobacteria typically are free-living environmental saprophytes. Some free-living Mycobacteria are opportunistic human pathogens and there is evidence that they are usually transmitted by inhalation, inoculation and ingestion from environmental sources. Soil, surface water, ground water and sea water have been described as natural habitats of environmental Mycobacteria. In addition, artificial habitats such as tap water and sewage sludge are colonized by a considerable spectrum of mycobacterial species. Aquatic Mycobacteria tend to colonize biofilms at air-water and solid-water interfaces and the latter seem to be an important proliferation site in oligotrophic habitats.
Non-tuberculous Mycobacteria (NTM) can form difficult-to-eliminate biofilms. Biofilms are collections of microorganisms that stick to each other, and adhere to surfaces in moist environments, such as the insides of plumbing in buildings. As opportunistic pathogens, NTMs can cause infections in a wide variety of body sites, most commonly the lungs and in the following areas: skin and soft tissue, device-associated infections, lymph nodes, blood or other usually sterile locations in the body.
Though opportunistic pathogens, NTMs can infect anyone, but certain groups face a higher risk, particularly individuals with underlying lung disease or weakened immune systems. While NTMs are generally not transmitted from person to person, there have been reported cases of person-to-person transmission of Mycobacterium abscessus in patients with cystic fibrosis.
It is crucial for health and safety and infection control officials in hospitals to understand the risks associated with NTM infections and the importance of testing for NTM in hospital environments. By testing for NTM, hospitals can identify potential sources of infection and take appropriate measures to prevent the spread of NTM infections. This can help reduce the risk of NTM infections in patients, especially those weak immune system.
Why Test for Non-tuberculous Mycobacteria (NTM)?
NTM, often underestimated, can lurk in hospital water systems, equipment, and even in the air. It is important for hospitals and homecare facilities to test for non-tuberculous mycobacteria because these bacteria can cause serious infections in patients, especially those who are immunocompromised. By testing for NTM, hospitals and homecare facilities can identify potential sources of infection and take appropriate measures to prevent the spread of NTM infections. This can help reduce the risk of NTM infections in patients, and improve patient outcomes.
At Mold & Bacteria Consulting Laboratories we have the expertise to test and identify non-tuberculous mycobacteria from hospital water and other environments.