James Cook University researchers are warning microorganisms previously thought to be benign are becoming more dangerous worldwide – and especially in the tropics.

Professor John Miles from JCU’s Australian Institute of Tropical Health and Medicine said diseases caused by non-tuberculous mycobacteria (NTM) have been steadily increasing globally.

“NTMs are the lesser-known cousins of tuberculosis. They are tiny bacteria that live in the soil, water systems and on common household items. We used to think they were harmless, or at least only dangerous to people with lung problems or who were immunosuppressed, but we’re finding that’s changing,” said Professor Miles.

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