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The goals with treatment are to resolve the nontuberculous mycobacteria (NTM) infection in the affected person and prevent further damage to tissues and organs. If there is evidence of widespread infection due to a common exposure, the medical community investigates the outbreak to find and eliminate the source of the infection(s). With leprosy, treatment is also necessary to prevent the spread of the infection.
The treatment of NTM infections is difficult and usually involves multiple antibiotics for prolonged periods of time. The length of treatment depends on the results of the AFB smears and cultures used to monitor the effectiveness of treatment. Where possible, NTM infections are best treated through surgical debridement (removal of damaged infected skin). In certain cases, such as an infected lymph node where the infection is localised, the surgical removal of the infected tissue may be curative.
Although symptoms often resolve after several weeks, it is crucial that those affected continue to take their drugs for the time period recommended by their doctor. There are often a large number of mycobacteria to kill and it may take several months or longer to make sure that all of them have been eradicated. Many treatments for mycobacterial infections have a wide range of undesirable side effects which must be carefully monitored. People with NTM infections should be in close contact with their doctor, report any new sumptoms and follow their doctor's recommendations closely for the best management of their specific condition.
Last Review Date: June 7, 2017