Who gets NTM Lung Disease?
NTM lung disease (pulmonary NTM disease) is not as well-known or understood as TB. We know that there are certain underlying conditions (sometimes referred to as a comorbidity) that make some people more susceptible to NTM infection, such as prior lung infection as well as COPD and genetic diseases such as Cystic Fibrosis, Alpha-1 antitrypsin deficiency, and primary ciliary dyskinesia (PCD). In a substantial number of cases, NTM patients have one or more comorbidity. However, it is still not completely clear why some people get infected and some don't. Although slender Caucasian women are particularly vulnerable to infection, we are now seeing it in men, younger women, and children. Illnesses which feature immune dysregulation, such as autoimmune disorders like Sjogren's disease or rheumatoid arthritis (RA), may also increase someone's risk of infection. We also know now that immunosuppressive medications such as chemotherapy, prednisone, or drugs used to treat conditions such as RA, psoriasis, and Crohn's disease, may increase the risk of NTM infection.
Other underlying conditions include pneumonia, prior inhalation of inorganic dust including silica, GERD (gastroesophogeal reflux disease, which is spillage of material from the mouth or stomach into the lungs), bronchiectasis, emphysema, or cigarette-induced lung injury.
Though the exact number of pulmonary NTM patients in the United States is not known, some studies estimate it to be as high as 50,000 to 90,000 people in the United States at any given time, with between 12,000 and 18,000 people becoming infected each year.