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J Infect Dis. 2011 Nov 15;204 Suppl 4:S1110-9. doi: 10.1093/infdis/jir448.

Alternative methods of diagnosing drug resistance--what can they do for me?

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  • 1Department of Clinical Research, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, London, United Kingdom.


During the last decade considerable attention has been focussed upon the development of new technologies and methodologies for detection of drug resistance in Mycobacterium tuberculosis. There is a growing acknowledgement that the redundancy in testing a full panel of first-line drugs is an unaffordable indulgence; since only resistance at baseline to either (or both) of the two most potent agents, isoniazid (H) and rifampicin (R), would usually prompt therapeutic modification there is a shift towards initial RH (or R alone for selected genotypic technologies) drug susceptibility testing (DST) followed, if necessary by further extended first and second line agent (currently phenotypic) DST. Most of the new drug susceptibility tests endorsed by the World Health Organization since 2007 deliver rapid RH (or R alone for selected genotypic technologies) DST. Targeting of patient groups with risk factors for drug resistance increases the proportion of tests that identify drug resistance, but in many settings at least as many patients with drug resistant disease will have no identifiable risk factors--equity of care demands that universal RH DST at baseline should be the goal. We review the bewildering array of choices facing TB program directors and attempt to provide objective information to help in deciding what tools may be best suited to different environments.

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