Non-tuberculous mycobacteria (NTM) are ubiquitous environmental organisms in contrast to those belonging to the M. tuberculosi complex (MTB). NTM infects and causes disease only in hosts with local or general predisposing factors. Lung infection following inhalation of NTM is the most common NTM disease but soft tissue infections may occur in connection with contaminated trauma or surgery. Microbiological diagnosis is obtained by microscopy for acid-fast bacteria (AFB) on secretions or biopsies, and by culture on special media. With the high specificity of MTB- polymerase chain reaction (PCR), a positive AFB smear combined with negative MTB-PCR denotes infection with NTM. Sophisticated species diagnosis of cultured NTM is attained by various molecular methods, where 16S rDNA-sequencing remains the gold standard. The panorama of infection with different rapidly growing (RGM) or slowly growing mycobacteria (SGM) in Sweden is described. Sensitivity testing in vitro to antimycobacterial drugs against NTM does not always preclude the in vivo efficacy. Standard antimycobacterial treatment regimens have been defined for infection with several NTM species. Sensitivity testing should be performed in selected cases only, as in case of relapse or suspected development of resistance of the NTM strain. The spectrum of disease caused by NTM species that display a very low pathogenic potential is likely to widen over time as severe immunosuppression will continue to be prevalent in several patient categories.
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