Skip to main content
U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government

Nontuberculous mycobacterial disease and molybdenum in Colorado watersheds

May 29, 2020
Nontuberculous mycobacteria (NTM) are environmental bacteria that may cause chronic lung disease. Environmental factors that favor NTM growth likely increase the risk of NTM exposure within specific environments. We aimed to identify water-quality constituents (Al, As, Cd, Ca, Cu, Fe, Pb, Mg, Mn, Mo, Ni, K, Se, Na, Zn, and pH) associated with NTM disease across Colorado watersheds. We conducted a geospatial, ecological study, associating data from patients with NTM disease treated at National Jewish Health and water-quality data from the Water Quality Portal. Water-quality constituents associated with disease risk were identified using generalized linear models with Poisson-distributed discrete responses. We observed a highly robust association between molybdenum (Mo) in the source water and disease risk. For every 1- unit increase in the log concentration of molybdenum in the source water, disease risk increased by 17.0%. We also observed a statistically significant association between calcium (Ca) in the source water and disease risk. The risk of NTM varied by watershed and was associated with watershed-specific water-quality constituents. These findings may inform mitigation strategies to decrease the overall risk of exposure.