This week’s article brings together two issues which I have written about before in other contexts. This is a good example of how two specific problems affect one another and why it is important to understand how they interact.

Gastroesophageal reflux or GERD is a common problem. In pulmonary circles we recognize that GERD can be a cause for chronic cough. It may also be associated with recurrent pneumonias due to night time aspiration.

I have discussed an infectious disease caused by non-tuberculous mycobacteria (NTM). This is an infection in the lung cause by a bacterium which is in the same family as tuberculosis but is an entirely different organism. This infection can be difficult to diagnose and requires a long treatment period.

Researchers have noted that NTM frequently occurs with GERD. This association frequently causes increases in a patient’s symptoms and more severe disease. The reason for the increased risk of infection and severity of disease is believed to be micro aspiration of gastric acid which continuously destroys the protective barrier and lining of the airways.

This gradual deterioration of one of the protective mechanisms in the airways predisposes patients with GERD to this type of infection. In addition, further analysis has shown that patients with GERD who develop an NTM infection have an increased incidence of all-cause mortality and increased disease-related hospitalizations or emergency department visits.

If you have been diagnosed with GERD, follow the treatment plan you were given. Remember the association with unusual lung infections