Why Nontuberculous Mycobacteria are So Dangerous
Nontuberculous mycobacteria (NTM) are commonly found in soil and water and pose very little risk to most people. However, for a select few, these bacteria can be extremely dangerous – possibly even fatal. This is particularly the case for people undergoing invasive heart procedures that involve the use of a heater-cooler device, which has been linked to the spread of NTM in patients.
How Do NTM Affect the Body?
When a person with a compromised immune system is exposed to NTM, the bacteria can easily enter the lungs. When NTM get into the body’s airways as well as the lung tissue, this leads to inflammation that results in severe infections. Signs of an infection include severe fatigue and coughing as well as sudden, unexpected weight loss.
Who is Susceptible to NTM?
Older adults and others with immune system weakness are at a high risk for NTM infections. While most people exposed to NTM easily expel the bacteria through their lungs, those with compromised immune systems cannot. An infection can result in a chronic problem that requires years of treatment and can severely hamper quality of life.
What Can I Do if I Suffered an NTM Infection During Open-Heart Surgery?
You may be eligible to file a lawsuit against the manufacturer of the heater-cooler device used in your operation if you developed an NTM infection. Many patients have taken legal action, claiming that the device used in their surgery sprayed contaminated water throughout the operating room, allowing NTM to enter their open chest cavity.