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Commentary |

Natural Disasters and Nontuberculous MycobacteriaNatural Disasters and Nontuberculous Mycobacteria: A Recipe for Increased Disease?

Jennifer R. Honda, PhD; Jon N. Bernhard, MEd; Edward D. Chan, MD
Author and Funding Information

From the Division of Pulmonary Sciences and Critical Care Medicine (Drs Honda and Chan), University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus, Aurora; and National Jewish Health (Drs Honda and Chan), Denver Veterans Affairs Medical Center, Denver, CO. Mr Bernhard does not have any professional affiliations.

CORRESPONDENCE TO: Jennifer R. Honda, PhD, Division of Pulmonary Sciences and Critical Care Medicine, University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus, RC2, Box C272, Aurora, CO 80045; e-mail: Jennifer.Honda@ucdenver.edu


FUNDING/SUPPORT: Dr Honda is supported by a National Institutes of Health National Research Service Award for Pulmonary and Critical Care Medicine Training [T32 HL 7085-83] and by the Potts Memorial Foundation.

Reproduction of this article is prohibited without written permission from the American College of Chest Physicians. See online for more details.


Chest. 2015;147(2):304-308. doi:10.1378/chest.14-0974
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Infectious diseases acquired by survivors of large-scale natural disasters complicate the recovery process. During events such as tsunamis, hurricanes, earthquakes, and tornados and well into the recovery period, victims often are exposed to water-soil mixtures that have relocated with indigenous microbes. Because nontuberculous mycobacteria (NTM) are ubiquitous in water and soil, there is potential for increased exposure to these organisms during natural disasters. In this hypothesis-driven commentary, we discuss the rise in NTM lung disease and natural disasters and examine the geographic overlap of NTM infections and disaster frequencies in the United States. Moreover, we show an increased number of positive NTM cultures from Louisiana residents in the years following three of the relatively recent epic hurricanes and posit that such natural disasters may help to drive the increased number of NTM infections. Finally, we advocate for increased environmental studies and surveillance of NTM infections before and after natural disasters.

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