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Modern laboratory diagnosis of mycobacterial infections
  1. S A Watterson1,
  2. F A Drobniewski1
  1. 1Public Health Laboratory Service Mycobacterium Reference Unit, Dulwich Public Health Laboratory and Department of Microbiology, Guy's, King's and St Thomas's School of Medicine, King's College Hospital, East Dulwich Grove, London, SE22 8QF, UK
  1. Dr Drobniewski francis.drobniewski{at}


This review summarises recent advances made in microscopic techniques (fluorescence and peptide nucleic acids) and culture techniques (solid, liquid, radiometric, and non-radiometric systems) and in the development of rapid methods for the identification of mycobacterial cultures (high performance liquid chromatography, thin layer chromatography, RNA sequencing, and polymerase chain reaction restriction enzyme assays). The role of molecular amplification systems in identifying Mycobacterium tuberculosis is described. Most methods record high specificity and sensitivity for smear positive sputum but have variable sensitivity for sputum smear negative and extrapulmonary specimens. Specimen quality will affect the performance of these assays and organisational delays, such as the batching of specimens, can reduce the time saved. In house assays can be as effective as commercial systems as long as appropriate controls are used.

  • tuberculosis
  • laboratory diagnosis
  • non-tuberculous mycoplasma

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