Recent advances in the diagnosis and treatment of multidrug-resistant tuberculosis

Respir Med. 2009 Dec;103(12):1777-90. doi: 10.1016/j.rmed.2009.07.010. Epub 2009 Aug 5.


Tuberculosis (TB) is a major infectious disease killing nearly two million people, mostly in developing countries, every year. The increasing incidence of resistance of Mycobacterium tuberculosis strains to the most-effective (first-line) anti-TB drugs is a major factor contributing to the current TB epidemic. Drug-resistant strains have evolved mainly due to incomplete or improper treatment of TB patients. Resistance of M. tuberculosis to anti-TB drugs is caused by chromosomal mutations in genes encoding drug targets. Multidrug-resistant (resistant at least to rifampin and isoniazid) strains of M. tuberculosis (MDR-TB) evolve due to sequential accumulation of mutations in target genes. Emergence and spreading of MDR-TB strains is hampering efforts for the control and management of TB. The MDR-TB is also threatening World Health Organization's target of tuberculosis elimination by 2050. Proper management of MDR-TB relies on early recognition of such patients. Several diagnostic methods, both phenotypic and molecular, have been developed recently for rapid identification of MDR-TB strains from suspected patients and some are also suitable for resource-poor countries. Once identified, successful treatment of MDR-TB requires therapy with several effective drugs some of which are highly toxic, less efficacious and expensive. Minimum treatment duration of 18-24 months is also long, making it difficult for health care providers to ensure adherence to treatment. Successful treatment has been achieved by supervised therapy with appropriate drugs at institutions equipped with facilities for culture, drug susceptibility testing of MDR-TB strains to second-line drugs and regular monitoring of patients for adverse drug reactions and bacteriological and clinical improvement.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Antitubercular Agents / pharmacology
  • Antitubercular Agents / therapeutic use
  • Drug Resistance, Multiple, Bacterial / genetics
  • Genotype
  • Humans
  • Mutation / genetics
  • Mycobacterium tuberculosis / genetics
  • Phenotype
  • Tuberculosis, Multidrug-Resistant / diagnosis*
  • Tuberculosis, Multidrug-Resistant / drug therapy*
  • Tuberculosis, Multidrug-Resistant / epidemiology
  • Tuberculosis, Multidrug-Resistant / genetics


  • Antitubercular Agents