In an age where medical advancements have significantly improved patient outcomes in intensive care units (ICUs), a new study has raised concerns over the impact of nontuberculous mycobacterial lung disease (NTM-LD) on critically ill patients. The research, recently published in the Journal of Microbiology, Immunology, and Infection, involves an analysis of survival rates and mechanical ventilation dependency among ICU patients with NTM-LD and tuberculosis (TB). This article delves into the findings of the study and their implications for patient care, citing the original research with its DOI: 10.1016/j.jmii.2023.12.009.

The Study at a Glance

In the study, authored by Ying-Chun Chien and colleagues from various esteemed institutions in Taiwan, a total of 5996 ICU patients were enrolled, 541 (9.0%) diagnosed with TB and 173 (2.9%) with NTM-LD. The main focus was on 30-day mortality rates and ventilator-free survival (VFS) at 30 days challenge post ICU admission. What emerged from the analysis was a startling revelation: NTM-LD had an independently significant association with increased 30-day mortality and decreased VFS at 30 days.

Mortality and Ventilation: The Statistics

Patients with NTM-LD exhibited an adjusted hazard ratio (aHR) of 1.49 (95% CI, 1.06-2.05), and those with TB an aHR of 2.33 (95% CI, 1.68-3.24) with regard to 30-day mortality when compared to ICU patients with negative sputum mycobacterial culture. This indicates a markedly increased risk of death within 30 days for patients with these mycobacterial infections.

Moreover, for critically ill patients requiring invasive mechanical ventilation, NTM-LD negatively impacted the probability of VFS with an aHR of 0.71 (95% CI: 0.56-0.92, p=0.009). TB, on the other hand, showed no such association. It’s clear that the diagnosis of respiratory failure itself was a predictor of unfavorable outcomes, both in 30-day mortality and VFS.

The Burden of NTM-LD and TB in ICUs

The prevalence rate of NTM-LD and TB among the ICU cohort was not minor, indicating that both conditions are significant concerns within critical care. The increased 30-day mortality associated with these infections underscores the seriousness with which they should be regarded by healthcare professionals.

Clinical Implications and Patient Outcomes

The findings carry significant weight in clinical settings: while NTM-LD is less prevalent than TB, its impact on critically ill patients’ outcomes is profound. The study suggests a need for heightened vigilance and perhaps tailored therapeutic strategies for patients with NTM-LD in ICUs.

Given the study’s results, healthcare providers must be aware that patients with NTM-LD may require more intensive care and longer periods of mechanical ventilation, which can complicate their ICU stay and recovery process. Identifying these patients early and optimizing their management could potentially improve their survival rates and reduce the duration of mechanical ventilation required.

Future Research and Limitations

While the study offers crucial insights, it also highlights the necessity for further research. The mechanisms contributing to the poorer outcomes associated with NTM-LD have yet to be fully understood. Additionally, the retrospective nature of the study and its focus on a single geographical region may limit the generalizability of the findings. Future prospective, multicentric research is needed to establish a more comprehensive understanding of NTM-LD’s impact on critically ill patients globally.


The study conducted by Ying-Chun Chien and his team marks a significant step in recognizing the challenges posed by NTM-LD in the critical care environment. The impact on survival and the extended need for mechanical ventilation highlight the severity of NTM-LD amongst ICU patients, calling for special attention to early identification and management of these individuals.


1. Nontuberculous Mycobacterial Lung Disease
2. ICU Mortality
3. Tuberculosis in Critically Ill
4. Mechanical Ventilation Survival
5. ICU Ventilator Use


The following list of references is drawn from the referenced scientific article and related research literature to support the content within this news article:

1. Chien, Y.-C., Chang, C.-H., Huang, C.-K., Chen, Y.-H., Liu, C.-J., Chen, C.-Y., … & Yu, C.-J. (2023). The impact of nontuberculous mycobacterial lung disease in critically ill patients: Significance for survival and ventilator use. Journal of Microbiology, Immunology, and Infection.

2. Adjemian, J., Olivier, K. N., Seitz, A. E., Falkinham III, J. O., Holland, S. M., & Prevots, D. R. (2012). Spatial clusters of nontuberculous mycobacterial lung disease in the United States. American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine, 186(6), 553-558.

3. Henkle, E., Winthrop, K. L. (2016). Nontuberculous mycobacteria infections in immunosuppressed hosts. Clinics in Chest Medicine, 37(1), 83-96.

4. Marras, T. K., Mirsaeidi, M., & Chou, E. (2018). A systematic review of the effect of inhaled corticosteroids on the risk of nontuberculous mycobacteria. International Journal of Tuberculosis and Lung Disease, 22(7), 729-736.

5. Griffith, D. E., Aksamit, T., Brown-Elliott, B. A., Catanzaro, A., Daley, C., Gordin, F., … & Winthrop, K. L. (2007). ATS Mycobacterial Diseases Subcommittee; American Thoracic Society; Infectious Disease Society of America. An official ATS/IDSA statement: diagnosis, treatment, and prevention of nontuberculous mycobacterial diseases. American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine, 175(4), 367-416.