Cystic Fibrosis Foundation - Click here for homepage
Stay Informed  |  Volunteer  |  Clinical Trials

In This Section

Quick Links

Find a Chapter

Bookmark and Share   Print  

Use the Right Treatment for NTM 


NTM lung disease is hard to treat, especially in people with CF. Like typical CF infections from Pseudomonas and staph, NTM can chronically infect the airways. It can be very difficult to clear from the sputum. In addition, NTM is naturally resistant to many antibiotics. 

Once your doctor and CF team decide that you should be treated for NTM lung disease, you will typically be started on three antibiotics at the same time.

Box Top Small Blue
Stay Tuned

New techniques are being developed to better find the types of NTM. This may lead to more and better knowledge about NTM care.

Many doctors and scientists are specifically studying NTM lung disease and treatment in CF, so there may be new approaches to treatment coming soon.

Talk to your doctor or CF team about new research and possibilities of participating in research studies related to NTM and CF.


Once started, you may need to take these antibiotics for 12 months or longer. The goal is to “clear” the lungs of infection. This means having a sputum culture that no longer grows NTM.

The medications are usually taken by mouth. But there are times that an intravenous (IV) or inhaled antibiotic for a short period of time may be needed as well.

The exact combination of antibiotics that your doctor prescribes will depend on the type of NTM. Tests will tell which antibiotics are the best at killing the NTM. More tests are done to watch for side effects or allergies that you might develop during months of treatment.

You will likely be asked to provide blood samples routinely in order to monitor levels of the drugs in your body. You may also need to have your hearing and vision tested routinely. This is to check for signs of toxicity for some of the NTM antibiotics that may be used.

What Else You Can Do 

In addition to the drugs, it is very important to continue your airway clearance. Often, people with CF and NTM need to do more airway clearance. 

Of course, regular exercise, staying away from secondhand smoke (tobacco, marijuana, etc.) and not smoking is always important in the treatment of CF. Good nutrition, care for your sinuses and treatment of CF-related diabetes (if you have this diagnosis) are also important.

back to top

Updated 06/20/12