Comparison of polymerase chain reaction with histopathologic features for diagnosis of tuberculosis in formalin-fixed, paraffin-embedded histologic specimens

Arch Pathol Lab Med. 2003 Mar;127(3):326-30. doi: 10.5858/2003-127-0326-COPCRW.


Objective.-To investigate the relationship between various histopathologic features and the results of the tuberculosis (TB)-polymerase chain reaction (PCR) method in routinely submitted histologic specimens for the histopathologic diagnosis of TB. Design.-We used 95 formalin-fixed, paraffin-embedded tissue blocks from 81 patients who were clinically suspected of having TB. We assessed the presence of histopathologic features including well-formed granuloma, poorly formed granuloma, caseous necrosis, and Langhans-type giant cells. We performed nested PCR for IS6110 and Ziehl-Neelsen staining for acid-fast bacilli (AFB). Results.-Of the 81 patients studied, 53 patients had chronic granulomatous inflammation, whereas 28 patients had only chronic inflammation without definite granulomatous inflammation. Of the 53 cases with chronic granulomatous inflammation, 17 (32%) were AFB positive and 36 (68%) were TB-PCR positive. Among cases with chronic granulomatous inflammation, the percentage that were positive and negative by TB-PCR differed significantly with the presence of various histopathologic features. All of the 13 cases with well-formed granuloma, caseous necrosis, and Langhans-type giant cells were TB-PCR positive; however, 10 (36%) of the 28 cases with chronic inflammation without granulomatous lesions were also TB-PCR positive. Conclusions.-TB-PCR is a rapid, sensitive method for the diagnosis of TB in routinely processed formalin-fixed, paraffin-embedded histologic specimens and is readily available in histopathology laboratories. We recommend use of TB-PCR when TB is suspected clinically, especially in cases of chronic inflammation without definite evidence of granulomatous inflammation.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Chronic Disease
  • DNA, Bacterial / genetics
  • Female
  • Formaldehyde / metabolism*
  • Granuloma / microbiology
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Mycobacterium tuberculosis / genetics
  • Mycobacterium tuberculosis / isolation & purification
  • Paraffin Embedding / methods*
  • Polymerase Chain Reaction / methods*
  • Predictive Value of Tests
  • Sensitivity and Specificity
  • Staining and Labeling
  • Tissue Fixation / methods*
  • Tuberculosis / complications
  • Tuberculosis / diagnosis*
  • Tuberculosis / genetics


  • DNA, Bacterial
  • Formaldehyde