Glossary

Aerosolized Dispersed as an aerosol, which is a suspension of tiny particles in gas. Mist and steam are types of aerosols.

AFB Smear – Mycobacteria are in a group called acid fast bacilli (AFB). The first test will be an AFB smear which looks for the organism in your sputum sample under the microscope. When organisms are seen in the sputum, the next test performed is the culture to determine if it is NTM, which may take several weeks to become positive. Further testing beyond that is required to determine what type of NTM is in your sputum. Therefore, even your initial AFBs must be done at a highly qualified lab.

Airway Clearance Device A device which helps loosen and clear mucus from lungs, working by means of vibration of airways, breathing resistance or other method. Click here for more information on these devices and methods.

Alpha-1 Antitrypsin deficiency – A genetic disorder caused by defective production of a protein called Alpha-1 antitrypsin, causing decreased activity of the protein in the lungs and a buildup of the protein in the liver, which can cause serious lung or liver damage. Alpha-1 is a known comorbidity of NTM lung infection.

Aspergillus – A fungal infection in the lungs.

Autoimmune Disorder A condition which occurs when a patient’s immune system mistakenly attacks and destroys his or her own healthy body tissue.

Biofilm A population of microorganisms (such as bacteria) in which cells stick to each other on a surface. These clumped cells are frequently embedded within a self-produced matrix of biofilm extracellular polymeric substance (either polysaccharide, abbreviated EPS or, in the case of nontuberculous mycobacteria, lipid) which is also referred to as slime. Biofilms may form on living (e.g. lung tissue) or non-living surfaces (e.g. household pipes) and are prevalent in natural, residential, industrial and hospital settings. They are almost always found inside water pipes.

Bronchiectasis (bron-kee-ek’-tas-is) – A condition that results from damage to the airways (bronchial tubes) of the lungs. This damage to the muscle or elastic tissue of the bronchial tubes is called bronchiectasis. Click here for more information.

Bronchoscopy – A flexible tube is passed through the mouth or nose and then down into the lungs in order to view the airways and collect samples from the lungs. Your doctor may use this procedure to collect sputum samples if you are unable to cough up sputum.

Chest P.T. – A type of respiratory physical therapy in which the patient receives percussive therapy with cupped hand clapping or with a device to loosen and mobilize secretions, thereby facilitating mucus clearance. This is often performed in conjunction with postural drainage.

Comorbidity – The presence of one or more disorders (or diseases) in addition to a primary disease or disorder, or the effect of such additional disorders or diseases on a patient.

 COPD (Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease) – A generalized designation for diseases involving persistent airway obstruction such as emphysema, chronic bronchitis, and bronchiectasis.

Cystic Fibrosis – A genetic chronic lung disease affecting the lungs and digestive system. CF is a significant comorbidity of NTM lung disease. Click here for more information.

Emphysema – A form of COPD in which the alveoli or small airways of the lungs are damaged, making breathing more difficult. Emphysema is usually caused by smoking.

Gram-Negative Infection – Gram-negative bacteria are a group of germs that can cause respiratory infections. Some NTM patients also get gram-negative lung infections such as Pseudomonas, Helicobacter pylori (H. pylori), Klebsiella pneumoniae, or Acinetobacter baumanii.

Hemoptysis – Coughing up blood.

Immune Dysregulation An unrestrained or unregulated immune response, an inappropriately robust or weakened immune response.

Nebulizer – A device used to administer medication to people in the form of a mist inhaled into the lungs. Be careful to clean the nebulizer carefully to prevent bacteria from being re-inhaled.

Opportunistic Infection – An infection caused by pathogens that usually do not cause disease in a host that is not compromised in some way. Perhaps due to bronchiectasis and other factors, some NTM patients later acquire opportunistic infections.

PCD (primary ciliary dyskinesia) An inherited disorder causing defects of motile (moving) cilia. Motile cilia are required to keep the lungs, sinuses and ears free of organisms and debris that can cause infection and disease. A person with PCD experiences chronic, recurrent infections in the lungs, ears and sinuses due to the loss of ciliary activity in those areas.

PICC – Peripherally inserted central catheter access line for infusion of intravenous (IV) medicines. Usually inserted in an arm.

Port – An access line inserted into a vein for the infusion of intravenous (IV) medicines.

Postural Drainage – Positioning a patient so that gravity helps clear secretions. The patient is positioned or tilted at an angle usually with head and lungs downward. Chest P.T. may also be done at the same time.

Probiotic(s) Also called “good bacteria” or “helpful bacteria,” probiotics are living microorganisms that are the same as or similar to those found naturally in the human body, particularly the lower gastrointestinal tract, which contains a diverse and complex community of bacteria.

Pseudomonas – (Pseudomonas aeruginosa) A gram-negative lung infection that some NTM patients experience.

Pulse Oximeter – A medical device that measures the amount of oxygen in your blood. It is put around your finger.

Sjogren’s disease A chronic autoimmune disease in which the immune system attacks the patient’s moisture-producing glands. It can also cause dysfunction of other major organs as well as extreme fatigue and joint pain. The vast majority of those affected are women.

Sputum/Mucus/Phlegm – Thick secretions found in lungs, airways and sinuses that your body produces to help remove dust, bacteria and other small particles.

Tinnitus – Ringing in the ears, which may be caused by taking certain antibiotics. Tinnitus may also sound like high-pitched whining, buzzing, whooshing, or roaring.

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