Rheumatoid Arthritis: Mycobacterial Infections Relatively Common

MedicalResearch.com Interview with:
Theodore Marras, MD, FRCPC, M.Sc.
Assistant Professor, University of Toronto
Respirologist, Toronto Western Hospital
University Health Network
Toronto, ON, Canada

Medical Research: What are the main findings of the study?

Dr. Marras: Mycobacterial infections (TB and nontuberculous mycobacteria (NTM)) are more common in patients with rheumatoid arthritis (RA). Nontuberculous mycobacteria disease was far more common than TB disease in RA patients in Ontario, Canada. Nontuberculous mycobacteria disease was also associated with increased age, COPD, asthma, and GERD. The presence of nontuberculous mycobacteria disease was associated with increased mortality.

Medical Research: Were any of the findings unexpected?

Dr. Marras: The increased mortality associated with nontuberculous mycobacteria disease in rheumatoid arthritis patients should be carefully considered by clinicians who care for these patients.

The association between nontuberculous mycobacteria and asthma is novel, and should be explored further.

Medical Research: What should clinicians and patients take away from your report?

Dr. Marras: In the presence of unexplained chronic or recurrent respiratory complaints, patients with rheumatoid arthritis should be investigated for mycobacterial disease. In light of the increase in mortality, the clinical situation of rheumatoid arthritis patients with nontuberculous mycobacteria should be carefully considered.

Medical Research: What recommendations do you have for future research as a result of this study?

Dr. Marras:

  • The associations between medications and mycobacterial diseases should be investigated.
  • Associations between asthma and nontuberculous mycobacteria should be studied in other patient cohorts.


Risk of mycobacterial infections associated with rheumatoid arthritis in ontario, canada
Brode SK, Jamieson FB, Ng R, et al.
Chest 2014;146(3):563-572.


Last Updated on September 12, 2014 by Marie Benz MD FAAD