Mycobacterium avium complex: Addressing gaps in diagnosis and management

Charles L. Daley, Kevin L. Winthrop

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

30 Scopus citations


Nontuberculous mycobacteria (NTM) are ubiquitous in the environment and an important cause of disease. The most common species causing pulmonary disease are members of Mycobacterium avium complex (MAC). MAC pulmonary disease (MAC-PD) can be chronic, debilitating, costly, and associated with a high mortality. However, MAC diagnoses are often delayed due to the nonspecific presentation of MAC-PD and radiological findings that overlap with other pulmonary diseases. Patients with risk factors and who meet the diagnostic criteria-which include clinical, radiological, and microbiologic criteria-should be considered for treatment. Diagnosis requires 2 or more positive sputum cultures or 1 bronchoscopic specimen culture. The recommendation for those who are treated is a 3-drug regimen including macrolide, rifamycin, and ethambutol that is continued for 12 months beyond sputum culture conversion to negative. MAC-PD is difficult to treat, with frequent drug-related side effects and suboptimal treatment outcomes. Refractory and recurrent disease is common, leading to lifelong follow-up of patients. There are limited treatment options for patients with macrolide-resistant or refractory disease. Amikacin liposome inhalation suspension is recommended for treatmentrefractory patients whose cultures remain positive after 6 months of guideline-based therapy. Among the research priorities to improve patient outcomes and quality of life are developing new, more rapid diagnostic tests, investigating biomarkers associated with disease progression, and identifying new drugs and routes of administration as well as new, shorter, and better-tolerated regimens.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)S199-S211
JournalJournal of Infectious Diseases
Issue numberSupplement_4
StatePublished - Sep 15 2020
Externally publishedYes


  • Diagnosis
  • Mycobacterium avium complex
  • Pulmonary disease
  • Refractory disease
  • Risk factors
  • Treatment

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Medicine


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