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Afr J Med Med Sci. 2011 Mar;40(1):5-14.

Methods of sputum decontamination with emphasis on local tuberculosis laboratories.

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Department of Veterinary Public Health and Preventive Medicine, University of Ibadan, Ibadan, Nigeria.


One of the major goals for the global control of tuberculosis (TB) in humans is the laboratory diagnosis of Mycobacterium tuberculosis the causative agent of TB. This organism is present in sputum specimens which are often contaminated by other fast growing microflora. Therefore, the use of rapid and effective diagnostic methods for optimal detection of Mycobacterium tuberculosis is required through different decontamination methods. This review considers some of the decontamination methods that have been described for the recovery of M. tuberculosis based on published print and electronic articles. Some of these methods have limitations which may make them unsuitable for use in most local laboratories in the developing world; and these include unavailability of essential reagents and materials, cost of acquiring equipment, lack of skilled personnel and undue delay in the time of processing samples. Despite these challenges, there are some methods that have potentials of being adapted for use in clinical mycobacteriology laboratories in developing countries particularly Nigeria. With the correct laboratory logistics put in place, the simplified concentration, Kudoh-Kudoh, and modified Petroff methods may go a long way in achieving effective sputum decontaminations under local setting. The potentials and challenges of using other decontamination methods are discussed.

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