The genus Mycobacterium
comprises not only the deadliest of bacterial pathogens, Mycobacterium tuberculosis
, but several other pathogenic species, including M. avium
and M. abscessus
. The incidence of infections caused by atypical or nontuberculous mycobacteria (NTM) has been steadily increasing, and is associated with a panoply of diseases, including pulmonary, soft-tissue, or disseminated infections. The treatment for NTM disease is particularly challenging, due to its long duration, to variability in bacterial susceptibility profiles, and to the lack of evidence-based guidelines. Treatment usually consists of a combination of at least three drugs taken from months to years, often leading to severe secondary effects and a high chance of relapse. Therefore, new treatment approaches are clearly needed. In this review, we identify the main limitations of current treatments and discuss different alternatives that have been put forward in recent years, with an emphasis on less conventional therapeutics, such as antimicrobial peptides, bacteriophages, iron chelators, or host-directed therapies. We also review new forms of the use of old drugs, including the repurposing of non-antibacterial molecules and the incorporation of antimicrobials into ionic liquids. We aim to stimulate advancements in testing these therapies in relevant models, in order to provide clinicians and patients with useful new tools with which to treat these devastating diseases.
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