Mycobacterium tuberculosis drug-resistance testing: challenges, recent developments and perspectives

T. Schön, P. Miotto, C. U. Köser, M. Viveiros, E. C. Böttger, E. Cambau

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

130 Citations (Scopus)


Drug-resistance testing, or antimicrobial susceptibility testing (AST), is mandatory for Mycobacterium tuberculosis in cases of failure on standard therapy. We reviewed the different methods and techniques of phenotypic and genotypic approaches. Although multiresistant and extensively drug-resistant (MDR/XDR) tuberculosis is present worldwide, AST for M. tuberculosis (AST-MTB) is still mainly performed according to the resources available rather than the drug-resistance rates. Phenotypic methods, i.e. culture-based AST, are commonly used in high-income countries to confirm susceptibility of new cases of tuberculosis. They are also used to detect resistance in tuberculosis cases with risk factors, in combination with genotypic tests. In low-income countries, genotypic methods screening hot-spot mutations known to confer resistance were found to be easier to perform because they avoid the culture and biosafety constraint. Given that genotypic tests can rapidly detect the prominent mechanisms of resistance, such as the rpoB mutation for rifampicin resistance, we are facing new challenges with the observation of false-resistance (mutations not conferring resistance) and false-susceptibility (mutations different from the common mechanism) results. Phenotypic and genotypic approaches are therefore complementary for obtaining a high sensitivity and specificity for detecting drug resistances and susceptibilities to accurately predict MDR/XDR cure and to gather relevant data for resistance surveillance. Although AST-MTB was established in the 1960s, there is no consensus reference method for MIC determination against which the numerous AST-MTB techniques can be compared. This information is necessary for assessing in vitro activity and setting breakpoints for future anti-tuberculosis agents.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)154-160
Number of pages7
JournalClinical Microbiology and Infection
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 1 Mar 2017


  • Antimicrobial susceptibility testing
  • Critical concentration
  • Critical proportion
  • Genetic resistance
  • Hot spot mutations
  • Minimum inhibitory concentration


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