Korean J Intern Med.  2017 Nov;32(6):1090-1097. 10.3904/kjim.2015.357.

Nontuberculous mycobacterial infection in rheumatoid arthritis patients: a single-center experience in South Korea

  • 1Division of Rheumatology, Department of Internal Medicine, Asan Medical Center, University of Ulsan College of Medicine, Seoul, Korea. bestmd2000@amc.seoul.kr
  • 2Division of Pulmonary and Critical Care Medicine, Department of Internal Medicine, Asan Medical Center, University of Ulsan College of Medicine, Seoul, Korea.


Nontuberculous mycobacteria (NTM) infection has been increasing worldwide in both general population and immunocompromised patients, which has also been reported in rheumatoid arthritis (RA) patients. This study aimed to identify the incidence and clinical characteristics of NTM infection in RA patients living in tuberculosis (TB) infection endemic area.
We performed a retrospective analysis of NTM infection cases in our RA registry at a tertiary referral center from January 1995 to December 2013. The clinical features of them were compared to those of 52 TB infection patients from same registry.
Among 1,397 patients with RA, NTM infection was newly developed in 26 patients and the incidence of NTM infection was 164.8 per 100,000 patient-years. The Mycobacterium avium complex was the most frequent isolate (76.9%). None of the NTM infections had extrapulmonary involvement, which was rather common in TB infection (26.9%). Patients with NTM infection were older, received higher cumulative steroid doses, and had higher rates of past TB infection history and concomitant interstitial lung disease (ILD) than cases with TB infection.
In South Korea, NTM infection is not rare in RA patients, and infection rates are growing. Physicians should be cautious about NTM infection in patients with a history of TB infection or concomitant ILD, even living in TB endemic area.


Nontuberculous mycobacteria; Mycobacterium tuberculosis; Arthritis, rheumatoid

MeSH Terms

Arthritis, Rheumatoid*
Immunocompromised Host
Lung Diseases, Interstitial
Mycobacterium avium Complex
Mycobacterium tuberculosis
Nontuberculous Mycobacteria
Retrospective Studies
Tertiary Care Centers
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