New tools and emerging technologies for the diagnosis of tuberculosis: part II. Active tuberculosis and drug resistance

Expert Rev Mol Diagn. 2006 May;6(3):423-32. doi: 10.1586/14737159.6.3.423.


Tuberculosis (TB) is one of the world's most important infectious causes of morbidity and mortality among adults. Between 8 and 9 million develop TB disease, and approximately 2 million die from TB each year. Despite this enormous global burden, case detection rates are low, posing major hurdles for TB control. Conventional TB diagnosis continues to rely on smear microscopy, culture and chest radiography. These tests have known limitations. Conventional tests for detection of drug resistance are slow, tedious and difficult to perform in field conditions. This second half of a two-part review series on new tools for TB diagnosis describes recent advances and emerging technologies in the diagnosis of active disease, and detection of drug resistance. For diagnosis, new tools include newer versions of nucleic acid amplification tests, immune-based assays, skin patch test and rapid culture systems. For drug resistance, new tools include line-probe assays, bacteriophage-based assays, molecular beacons and microscopic observation drug susceptibility assay. Although the ideal test for TB is still not in sight, substantial progress has been made in the past decade. With the resurgence of interest in the development of new tools for TB control, it is likely that the next decade will see greater progress and tangible benefits. However, the challenge will be to ensure that new tools undergo rigorous evaluations in field conditions, and also to make sure that benefits of promising new tools actually reach the populations in developing countries that need them most. Latent TB is discussed in Part I; 413-422 of this issue.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Antigens, Bacterial
  • Antitubercular Agents / pharmacology
  • Drug Resistance, Bacterial*
  • Humans
  • Immunoenzyme Techniques / methods
  • Immunologic Tests / methods*
  • Mass Screening / methods*
  • Molecular Diagnostic Techniques*
  • Sensitivity and Specificity
  • Tuberculin Test / methods
  • Tuberculosis / diagnosis*
  • Tuberculosis, Multidrug-Resistant / diagnosis*


  • Antigens, Bacterial
  • Antitubercular Agents