MAC lung disease commonly affects people who are immunocompromised. Scroll down to find out more about the causes, symptoms and treatment of this lung disorder.
Bacteria from the Mycobacterium family are known for causing serious pulmonary diseases. While the serious lung disease called tuberculosis is caused by Mycobacterium tuberculosis, another serious lung condition called MAC lung disease is caused by species of nontuberculous bacteria called Mycobacterium avium and Mycobacterium intracellulare. These species are classified under Mycobacterium avium complex (MAC). Since the task of differentiating these species from each other is extremely difficult, these are also referred to as Mycobacterium avium-intracellulare (MAI).
This pathogenic bacterial infection or disease usually affects those who have a compromised immune system. People with weak immune defenses are at a greater risk of developing this bacterial infection. MAC infection may not always progress into lung disease, but the likelihood of this infection turning into a lung disease is higher for those suffering from an underlying lung condition or AIDS. In this article, we would look into the causes, symptoms and treatment of MAC pulmonary disease.
MAC Lung Disease
Causes and Symptoms
Nontuberculous strains of Mycobacterium are usually present in the environment. These may be present in soil, surface water or tap water. It may also be present in some foods. The bacteria may be found in tobacco, paper and filters that are used for making cigarettes. Since the symptoms are quite similar to the symptoms exhibited by people suffering from recurrent pneumonia or bronchitis, this condition is often misdiagnosed. A variety of medical conditions can make one more susceptible to this condition.
An abnormal spinal curvature, which is medically referred to as scoliosis, can make one more susceptible. Though people suffering from an underlying lung infection or conditions such as tuberculosis, asthma, chronic bronchitis, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, bronchiectasis, cystic fibrosis or hypersensitivity pneumonitis are at a greater risk of developing this disease, healthy people can also suffer from this condition due to inhalation of air-borne respiratory secretions or ingestion of foods that contain this bacteria.
Lifestyle choices one makes can also have a great effect on one’s immune responses. For instance, heavy smoking or excessive consumption of alcohol can weaken one’s immune system, and thus, increase the risk of such bacterial lung infections. The symptoms of this lung disease may vary from person to person, but productive/dry cough, weakness, loss of appetite, fever, dyspnea, malaise, fatigue and chest pain are some of the symptoms that may be exhibited by the patient. In rare cases, one might also cough up blood.
Complete blood count test, blood culture, sputum analysis, chest X-ray and pulmonary function tests are some of the diagnostic tests that are ordered in order to identify the causal pathogenic organism. If the tests reveal the presence of nontuberculous MAC bacteria, then the use of antibiotics such as azithromycin, clarithromycin, ethambutol, rifampin, rifabutin, amikacin or streptomycin, may be recommended so as to kill the bacteria and prevent them from growing any further. Multi-drug regimen is the most important part of the treatment. Generally factors such as medical history, age, weight and the symptoms exhibited by the patient help the doctors determine the treatment plan. Symptomatic approach is usually followed. For instance, if one is suffering from productive cough, one may also be prescribed expectorants so as to expel phlegm from the lungs. Different types of drugs are prescribed for alleviating the specific symptoms.
One may be on antibiotics for a period of 15 to 18 months. It is extremely important that the patient completes the course of antibiotics and other drugs. Failure to do so may cause this bacterial lung infection to relapse. Antibiotic therapy would be required until the blood culture tests or sputum analysis come absolutely negative for MAC. In some cases, antibiotic therapy may not prove to be very effective.
This is mainly attributed to strains of bacteria becoming resistant to standard antibiotics. Under these circumstances, lung resection or any other treatment option may need to be considered. While use of drugs can help in alleviating the symptoms, it’s extremely important that the patient follows the recommended diet and takes proper rest. It is extremely important that the body is well-rested and nourished during the recovery period. This would pave the way for a faster recovery.
MAC lung disease is a serious condition that must never be left untreated. It is therefore, essential, that a person suffering from aforementioned symptoms, seeks medical help at the earliest. If this condition is diagnosed and treated at an early stage, the patient is more likely to recover soon.