Laboratory Diagnosis and Susceptibility Testing for Mycobacterium tuberculosis.

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The laboratory, which utilizes some of the most sophisticated and rapidly changing technologies, plays a critical role in the diagnosis of tuberculosis. Some of these tools are being employed in resource-challenged countries for the rapid detection and characterization of Mycobacterium tuberculosis. Foremost, the laboratory defines appropriate specimen criteria for optimal test performance. The direct detection of mycobacteria in the clinical specimen, predominantly done by acid-fast staining, may eventually be replaced by rapid-cycle PCR. The widespread use of the Xpert MTB/RIF (Cepheid) assay, which detects both M. tuberculosis and key genetic determinants of rifampin resistance, is important for the early detection of multidrug-resistant strains. Culture, using both broth and solid media, remains the standard for establishing the laboratory-based diagnosis of tuberculosis. Cultured isolates are identified far less commonly by traditional biochemical profiling and more commonly by molecular methods, such as DNA probes and broad-range PCR with DNA sequencing. Non-nucleic acid-based methods of identification, such as high-performance liquid chromatography and, more recently, matrix-assisted laser desorption/ionization-time of flight mass spectrometry, may also be used for identification. Cultured isolates of M. tuberculosis should be submitted for susceptibility testing according to standard guidelines. The use of broth-based susceptibility testing is recommended to significantly decrease the time to result. Cultured isolates may also be submitted for strain typing for epidemiologic purposes. The use of massive parallel sequencing, also known as next-generation sequencing, promises to continue to this molecular revolution in mycobacteriology, as whole-genome sequencing provides identification, susceptibility, and typing information simultaneously.

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