Nontuberculous Mycobacterium (NTM) can be a serious chronic lung disease that can make patients very ill and damage their lungs. The bacteria causing NTM lung infection is usually slow growing and the condition is difficult to diagnose, even for experienced doctors. NTM is increasing worldwide, and with an ageing population, the condition is expected to become more common.
NTM particularly affects women 50 years of age or older, of European and Asian descent and, for reasons that are unknown, NTM patients are often slender, active women. It is also more common in warmer climates. NTM can be treated successfully over an 18 to 24 month period, and while some patients recover fully, others do not.
The bacteria are widely found in the environment, including soil and tap water, which means people can become infected through everyday activities such as showering and gardening.