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Eur Respir J. 2008 Jun;31(6):1322-33. doi: 10.1183/09031936.00140007.

Susceptibility to nontuberculous mycobacterial lung disease.

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  • 1Green Lane Respiratory Services, Auckland City Hospital, Auckland, New Zealand.


The nontuberculous mycobacteria (NTM) exhibit heterogeneous pathogenicity in humans. Articles on known and potential human factors capable of producing susceptibility to NTM lung disease (NTMLD) were identified by a systematic search of the medical literature, and are reviewed in the present study. Patients with pre-existing structural lung disease are known to be at risk of NTMLD. Other susceptible groups have become recognised since the 1980s, in particular middle-aged nonsmokers without previous lung disease (a group including those with Lady Windermere syndrome) and patients with genetically determined defects of cell-mediated immunity, including abnormalities of the interleukin-12/interferon-gamma axis, certain human leukocyte antigen alleles, cystic fibrosis transmembrane conductance regulator mutations, and polymorphisms of solute carrier 11A1 (or natural resistance-associated macrophage protein 1) and the vitamin D receptor. Information is also accruing about acquired systemic causes of susceptibility to NTMLD, including inhibitory antibodies directed against interferon-gamma, post-menopausal waning of endogenous oestrogen levels, coeliac disease and exposure to use of dietary phyto-oestrogens. It is not known whether immunosuppressive factors, such as oral corticosteroid treatment, chronic renal failure, diabetes mellitus and other known risk factors for pulmonary tuberculosis, are also risk factors for the development of NTMLD. Caution is appropriate in managing such patients.

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