We compared the mycobacteria growth indicator tube (MGIT) system with the BACTEC 460 TB and Loewenstein-Jensen (LJ) systems for the recovery of mycobacteria (acid-fast bacilli [AFB]) from 600 clinical specimens. A total of 50 AFB (32 Mycobacterium tuberculosis complex, 10 M. avium complex, 3 M. gordonae, 3 M. xenopi, 1 M. terrae and 1 M. fortuitum) were detected. MGIT recovered 50 isolates of AFB (100% sensitivity), and BACTEC 460 TB and LJ recovered 49 (98% sensitivity) and 19 (38% sensitivity) AFB isolates, respectively. The mean times to detect mycobacteria were 10, 10 and 25 days for MGIT, BACTEC 460, and LJ slants. All isolates of M. tuberculosis complex were tested for susceptibility to streptomycin, isoniazid, rifampin, and ethambutol with the MGIT and BACTEC 460 TB. Both systems yielded identical susceptibility data with different mean times to report (5.38 days for MGIT versus 7.33 days for BACTEC 460 TB, P<0.05). The results suggest that MGIT is equivalent to BACTEC 460 TB in its ability to support the growth of mycobacteria, but significantly more efficient than LJ. MGIT may also be used for susceptibility testing of primary antituberculosis drugs.