Non-tuberculous mycobacteria (NTM), also known as atypical mycobacteria, are recognised as emerging pathogens.
Certain species are responsible for respiratory or iatrogenic infections, especially amongst immuno-suppressed people. They persist in watery environments, and they are challenging and complicated to study because they are slow and difficult to cultivate in the laboratory.
Molecular development has made it possible to bypass the culture stage, but these methods do not provide all the answers when trying to quantify their proliferation. M. avium, M. chelonae, M. kansasii, M. xenopi, etc., are the best known amongst these opportunistic pathogens thanks to their ability to cause disease.
There is currently no maximum value put on their presence in water and the only analysis available is based on qualitative studies in specialist environments and their long incubation time.
They can be transmitted by aerosol inhalation or via inoculation directly into the skin, subcutaneous tissue and the osteoarticular system by contaminated medical equipment such as endoscopes or mesotherapy needles, etc.
Mycobacteria cause serious illness in subjects with a profound deficit of cellular immunity or mucoviscidosis (cystic fibrosis of the pancreas). This severity is explained by the bacteria’s multidrug resistance to antibiotics. The most frequent clinical forms of illness are pulmonary, ganglionic, cutaneous and osteoarticular infections and their associated damage.