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J Clin Pathol. Apr 1993; 46(4): 318–322.
PMCID: PMC501211

Use of PCR in routine diagnosis of treated and untreated pulmonary tuberculosis.


AIMS--To assess the routine use of a polymerase chain reaction (PCR) assay for the direct detection of Mycobacterium tuberculosis in expectorated sputum specimens. METHODS--A pair of primers (20-mer) were designed to amplify the 38 kilodalton protein of M tuberculosis. The specificity of the assay was evaluated in 31 M tuberculosis strains, 15 atypical mycobacterium species, and several commensal bacteria of the upper respiratory tract. The assay was subsequently applied to 519 sputum specimens from 85 inpatients of a chest hospital in Hong Kong. RESULTS--An amplified product of 239 base pairs was found in all M tuberculosis strains, standard strains of M bovis, and M africanum but not in the other bacterial strains tested. For the 51 patients with pulmonary radiographic lesions, the diagnosis of pulmonary tuberculosis was subsequently confirmed by both culture and PCR in 41 of them. Five patients who were treated before admission were positive by PCR alone. All but one patient in the control group (patients with acute exacerbation of chronic obstructive airway diseases) or those with atypical mycobacterial diseases were PCR negative. The PCR remained positive after four weeks of anti-tuberculosis treatment in 29 patients, 16 of whom had become culture negative. CONCLUSION--This PCR assay is a useful technique for the diagnosis of untreated and recently treated cases of pulmonary tuberculosis.

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Selected References

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