Most of the nontuberculous mycobactera infections are naturally resistant to many common antibiotics. It is often necessary to use some of the same medications that are used to treat tuberculosis (TB). In order to overcome drug resistance, you may need to take several different antibiotics at the same time. Because many of these medications have side effects, close monitoring is important. Furthermore, treatment may be necessary for as long as two years. Sometimes treatment is ongoing, depending on the severity of the disease.
The most common organisms involved in human infection are M. kansasii, M. avium, M. intracellulare, M. chelonae and M. abscessus. M. kansasii is easier to treat and often can be killed with only three anti-TB medications. On the other hand, organisms such as M. avium, M. chelonae and M. abscessus are among the most stubborn germs. They are more difficult to treat. Three to five medications may be needed. Depending on how localized the disease is, surgery also may be helpful.