Nontuberculous Mycobacteria (NTM): Diagnosis

A nontuberculous mycobacteria (NTM) diagnosis can be more difficult than a tuberculosis (TB) diagnosis. It is important for your healthcare provider to determine if the infection is TB or NTM. If it is NTM, the specific type of NTM is important. In addition, it is critical for the healthcare provider to determine whether the NTM infection requires treatment. Some people harbor the germs and remain well. They may need to be observed without treatment. Others have or may be developing serious and progressive illness. A diagnosis is often based on the following:

  • A complete medical history and physical examination by a healthcare provider.
  • A Chest CT scan (a specialized X-ray which produces detailed slide-like pictures) of the lungs.
  • A sputum culture - Several sputum cultures are often necessary and must be done at specialized labs. One positive test does not always mean disease is present.
  • Other procedures such as bronchoscopy may be required in certain cases.