Molecular epidemiology of nontuberculous mycobacteria isolates from clinical and environmental sources of a metropolitan city

Ali Akbar Velayati, Parissa Farnia, Mohadese Mozafari, Donya Malekshahian, Shima Seif, Snaz Rahideh, Mehdi Mirsaeidi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

38 Scopus citations


Introduction: While NTM infection is mainly acquired from environmental exposure, monitoring of environmental niches for NTM is not a routine practice. This study aimed to find the prevalence of environmental NTM in soil and water in four highly populated suburbs of Tehran, Iran. Material and Methods: A total of 4014 samples from soil and water resources were collected and studied. Sediments of each treated sample were cultured in Lowenstein-Jensen medium and observed twice per week for growth rate, colony morphology, and pigmentation. Colonies were studied with phenotypic tests. Molecular analysis was performed on single colonies derived from subculture of original isolates. Environmental samples were compared with 34 NTM isolates from patients who were residents of the study locations. Results: Out of 4014 samples, mycobacteria were isolated from 862 (21.4%) specimens; 536 (62.1%) belonged to slow growing mycobacteria (SGM) and 326 (37.8%) were rapid growing mycobacteria (RGM). The five most frequent NTM were M. farcinogens (105/862; 12.1%), M. fortuitum (72/862; 8.3%), M. senegalense (58/862; 6.7%), M. kansasii (54/862; 6.2%), and M. simiae (46/862; 5.3%). In total, 62.5% (539/862) of mycobacterial positive samples were isolated from water and only 37.4% (323/862) of them were isolated from soil samples (P<0.05). Out of 5314 positive clinical samples for mycobacteria, 175 (3.2%) isolates were NTM. The trend of NTM isolates increased from 1.2% (13 out of 1078) in 2004 to 3.8% (39 out of 1005) in 2014 (P=0.0001). The major clinical isolates were M. simiae (51; 29.1%), M. kansasii (26; 14.8%), M. chelonae (28; 16%), and M. fortuitum (13; 7.4%). Conclusions: Comparing the distribution pattern of environmental NTM isolates with clinical isolates suggests a possible transmission link, but this does not apply to all environmental NTM species. Our study confirms an increasing trend of NTM isolation from clinical samples that needs further investigation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere114428
JournalPloS one
Issue number12
StatePublished - Dec 8 2014
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
  • Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all)
  • General


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