Recurrent Tuberculosis in the United States and Canada: Relapse or Reinfection?

Am J Respir Crit Care Med. 2004 Dec 15;170(12):1360-6. doi: 10.1164/rccm.200408-1081OC. Epub 2004 Oct 11.


Recurrence of active tuberculosis after treatment can be due to relapse of infection with the same strain or reinfection with a new strain of Mycobacterium tuberculosis. The proportion of recurrent tuberculosis cases caused by reinfection has varied widely in previous studies. We evaluated cases of recurrent tuberculosis in two prospective clinical trials: a randomized study of two regimens for the last 4 months of treatment (n = 1,075) and a study of a twice-weekly rifabutin-containing regimen for human immunodeficiency virus-infected tuberculosis (n = 169). Isolates at diagnosis and from positive cultures after treatment completion underwent genotyping using IS6110 (with secondary genotyping for isolates with less than six copies of IS6110). Of 85 patients having a positive culture after completing treatment, 6 (7.1%) were classified as false-positive cultures by a review committee blinded to treatment assignment. Of the remaining 75 cases with recurrent tuberculosis and genotyping data available, 72 (96%; 95% confidence interval, 88.8-99.2%) paired isolates had the same genotype; only 3 (4%; 95% confidence interval, 0.8-11.2%) had a different genotype and were categorized as reinfection. We conclude that recurrent tuberculosis in the United States and Canada, countries with low rates of tuberculosis, is rarely due to reinfection with a new strain of M. tuberculosis.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Antitubercular Agents / therapeutic use
  • Canada / epidemiology
  • Female
  • Genotype
  • Humans
  • Isoniazid / therapeutic use
  • Male
  • Mycobacterium tuberculosis / genetics
  • Prospective Studies
  • Recurrence
  • Rifampin / analogs & derivatives*
  • Rifampin / therapeutic use
  • Tuberculosis, Pulmonary / drug therapy
  • Tuberculosis, Pulmonary / epidemiology*
  • Tuberculosis, Pulmonary / microbiology
  • United States / epidemiology


  • Antitubercular Agents
  • Isoniazid
  • Rifampin
  • rifapentine