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Mem Inst Oswaldo Cruz. 2001 Feb;96(2):277-80.

Survival of tubercle bacilli in heat-fixed and stained sputum smears.

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Laboratório de Microbiologia, Departamento de Análises Clínicas, Universidade Estadual de Maringá, Maringá, PR, 87020-900, Brasil.


We used a slide culture technique to detect tubercle bacilli surviving in sputum smears (n=46) after conventional heat fixation and Ziehl-Neelsen staining. In all heat-fixed sputum smears, tubercle bacilli survived after time 0 (n=22), 24 h (n=7), 48 h (n=7), 72 h (n=4), and seven days (n=6). None of the stained sputum smears showed growth on slide cultures. Viable tubercle bacilli remaining in heat-fixed sputum smears for at least seven days may present an infection risk to laboratory staff. Thus, sputum smears should be stained immediately by the Ziehl-Neelsen method or stored in a safe container to avoid transmission of tuberculosis.

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