Mary Ann DeGroote, M.D.

About NTM Info & Research
NTM Info & Research (NTMir)( http://www.ntminfo.org/) is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization formed on behalf of patients with pulmonary nontuberculous mycobacterial (NTM) disease for the purpose of patient support, medical education and research. NTMir serves patients and physicians concerned with NTM.

Mary Ann Degroote M.D.Mary Ann DeGroote, M.D., approaches research from the perspective of a physician who has seen first-hand the grueling

treatment that patients who are suffering from nontuberculous mycobacterium (NTM) pulmonary infections must endure for a year or more. She also approaches her work, co-funded through a partnership between the American Lung Association and NTM Info & Research, as a collaborative effort that leverages expertise among scientists working together toward a safer, more effective treatment of a problematic infection.

Infections due to Mycobacterium abscessus and other environmental mycobacteria are an emerging and serious public health

 problem in the United States. The incidence of pulmonary disease caused by such non-tuberculous mycobacteria seems to be increasing. Some  recent reports suggest that in some areas of the U. S., the prevalence of NTM pulmonary disease may exceed that of tuberculosis. Treatments can be very long and toxic, and the cure rate can be low, especially for M. abscessus.

What is Nontuberulous Mycobaterium?
Nontuberculous mycobacterium (NTM) infections are similar to tuberculosis but are caused by a different type of bacteria and often cannot be treated with the same medications. The infections are caused by organisms found in the environment, including M. abscessus. Infections can affect the lungs, skin and soft tissues and sometimes can be present throughout the body. Treatment often continues for more than a year, and patients typically do not tolerate the antibiotics well.

Little is known about the most effective and safest antimicrobial therapies. Dr. DeGroote, Assistant Professor of Microbiology, Immunology and Pathology at Colorado State University, will begin testing potential antimicrobials in a preclinical model of M. abscessus infection. Under the umbrella of the collaborative Mycobacterial Research Laboratories (http://mrl.colostate.edu/), she is working with Diane Ordway-Rodriquez, Ph.D. who developed the model and Mary Jackson Ph.D. a mycobacterial genetics expert, also at Colorado State University, and Scott Franzblau, Ph.D., who has an active mycobacterial drug discovery program at the University of Illinois at Chicago. Together, the investigators will screen and test large libraries of compounds for M. abscessus activity.

"Once we find a successful compound with activity against the bacterium, you have to go through a repeat test to be sure it's a real finding. Then you must understand how it affects the bacterium, what the potential toxicity is, and if it can even be absorbed," Dr. DeGroote said. "There's a large spectrum of tests to do before it would ever be tested in a later stage preclinical model. We want to hit a home run in the lab, but finding something that works in the lab is only a start and a long way before a drug would be available that would help humans.

"There are no guarantees," she said, "but we have to try. These organisms have developed their own strategies to make themselves particularly drug-resistant, and they're formidable. But I've never forgotten the patients with fast-growing nontuberculous mycobacterium, and how great the need is for more effective and safe therapies."