Volume 21, Number 3—March 2015
Role of Race/Ethnicity in Pulmonary Nontuberculous Mycobacterial Disease
To the Editor: We read with interest the study of gender and age in nontuberculous mycobacterial (NTM) lung disease case-patients in Taiwan (1). NTM lung disease is relatively uncommon; however, the exact prevalence of NTM lung disease and causative organisms are largely unknown in many regions of the United States because the disease is not reportable. A recent study using Medicare claims data in the United States showed that the annual prevalence of NTM lung disease increased from 20 cases/100,000 persons in 1997 to 47 cases/100,000 persons in 2007 (2). The study also showed that Hawaii had the highest period prevalence of cases (396 cases/100,000 persons), which was at least partially attributed to the large Asian/Pacific Islander population (2). During June–December 2011, we conducted a cross-sectional study to evaluate the epidemiologic and clinical significance of NTM isolated from patients in Honolulu, Hawaii; the patients had suspected pulmonary tuberculosis (TB) and were in airborne isolation at a university-affiliated, tertiary-care hospital.
NTM cases were defined according to the 2007 criteria of the American Thoracic Society/Infectious Diseases Society of America (3). The process required to establish a diagnosis of NTM lung disease is sometimes lengthy; thus, patients who did not initially meet the disease criteria but who had cultures positive for NTM were reviewed again 1 year after the original data were collected to see if follow-up microbiological and radiographic studies would confirm the presence of NTM lung disease. Descriptive statistics were used to describe categorical and continuous variables. During June–December 2011, a total of 113 patients with suspected pulmonary TB were placed into isolation at the tertiary-care hospital. Of these patients, 85 (75.2%) were men and 28 (24.8%) were women; the median age was 59.8 ± 17 years. Eighteen (15.9%) patients were white, 92 (81.4%) were Asian/Pacific Islander, and 1 (0.9%) was African American; for 2 (1.8%) patients, race/ethnicity was classified as not specified/other.
Of the 113 isolated patients, 21 (18.6%) were positive for mycobacteria. Of these 21 patients, 14 (66.7%) were men and 7 (33.3%) were women; the median age was 64.3 ± 17.3 years. Three (14.3%) of these patients were white, and 18 (85.7%) were Asian/Pacific Islander. Mycobacterium tuberculosis and NTM were identified in samples from 3 (14.3%) and 18 (85.7%) of the 21 patients, respectively. Of the 18 patients with NTM-positive samples, 4 (22.2%) had definite NTM lung disease (all of these patients were Asian/Pacific Islander); 2 (11.1%) had probable NTM lung disease; and 12 (66.7%) had possible NTM lung disease. M. chelonae (identified by DNA sequencing) was the causative agent for most of the definite cases (n = 3, 75%), and the largest proportion of possible cases was caused by M. avian complex bacteria (n = 5, 41.7%).
Our finding that 22.2% (4/18) of the patients in Honolulu with NTM-positive clinical samples during June–December 2011 received a definite diagnosis of NTM lung disease is slightly higher than but consistent with reports from other regions, which show that 9.8%–17.0% of such patients receive a definite NTM disease diagnosis (4,5). For unclear reasons, the number of NTM disease cases appears to be highest in Asian/Pacific Islander populations. Determining the reason(s) for this discrepancy should be the subject of future research efforts.
- Chien JY, Lai CC, Sheng WH, Yu CJ, Hsueh PR. Pulmonary infection and colonization with nontuberculous mycobacteria, Taiwan, 2000–2012. Emerg Infect Dis. 2014;20:1382–5.
- Adjemian J, Olivier KN, Seitz AE, Holland SM, Prevots DR. Prevalence of nontuberculous mycobacterial lung disease in U.S. Medicare beneficiaries. Am J Respir Crit Care Med. 2012;185:881–6.
- Griffith DE, Aksamit T, Brown-Elliott BA, Catanzaro A, Daley C, Gordin F, An official ATS/IDSA statement: diagnosis, treatment, and prevention of nontuberculous mycobacterial diseases [cited 2014 Aug 1]. http://www.thoracic.org/statements/resources/mtpi/nontuberculous-mycobacterial-diseases.pdf
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- Braun E, Sprecher H, Davidson S, Kassis I. Epidemiology and clinical significance of non-tuberculous mycobacteria isolated from pulmonary specimens. Int J Tuberc Lung Dis. 2013;17:96–9.