Background There is no proven management for mild cases of Mycobacterium avium complex (MAC) pulmonary disease, who do not immediately receive treatment and are managed with observation alone, because its long term-natural course, factors predictive of deterioration, and the effect of treating the disease remain unclear. Thus, we sought to investigate the natural course of mild cases of MAC pulmonary disease. Methods We conducted a multicenter retrospective study. Sixty-five patients with mild MAC pulmonary disease in whom treatment was withheld for at least 6 months after diagnosis were retrospectively recruited after a review of 747 medical records. Longitudinal changes in clinical features were evaluated by using a mixed effects model. Results Mean follow-up was 6.9 ± 5.7 years. During the follow-up period, 15 patients (23%) required treatment and 50 (77%) were managed with observation alone. At diagnosis, 65 patients had nodular bronchiectatic disease without fibrocavitary lesions. Among clinical features, mean body mass index (BMI), forced expiratory volume in 1 second as percent of forced vital capacity (%FEV 1 ), nodular lung lesions, and bronchiectasis worsened significantly in the observation group during follow-up. In the treatment group, BMI, and % FEV 1 were stable, but bronchiectasis significantly worsened. At diagnosis, the polyclonal MAC infection rate in the treatment group was higher than that in the observation group. Other microbiological factors, such as insertion sequences, did not differ significantly between the groups. Conclusions Mild MAC pulmonary disease progresses slowly but substantially without treatment. Treatment prevents the deterioration of the disease but not the progression of bronchiectasis. Polyclonal MAC infection is a predictor of disease progression.
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