Karina Jones of Eta Projects, an IHEEM-registered Authorising Engineer (Water), takes a look at some of the health risks from growth and proliferation of Nontuberculous Mycobacteria – which she explains are ‘ubiquitous in the environment’ – and some of the key steps to lower them, and thus reduce the chances of infection.
I have been aware of Nontuberculous Mycobacteria (NTM) for some time, but three years ago I still knew relatively little of the bacteria’s key characteristics, since the majority of our attention in healthcare water system environments is focused on Legionella and Pseudomonas aeruginosa bacteria. However, when I was informed about the NTM outbreak of Mycobacterium abscessus at the Royal Papworth Hospital in 2019,1 and the fact that the investigation confirmed water supply as the source, this further awakened my interest, and I felt that I needed to understand how this bacterium can affect our heath and how (if at all) we can control it
Ubiquitous in the environment
Nontuberculous mycobacteria, shortened to NTM, are ubiquitous in the environment, and are bacteria found in soil, dust, and water, including natural water sources (such as lakes, rivers, and streams) and municipal water sources (such as water that people drink or shower in).2 As with the majority of bacteria, there can be many different strains; in fact there are approximately 180 strains of NTM bacteria and more than 170 different species
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