The development, evaluation and performance of molecular diagnostics for detection of Mycobacterium tuberculosis

Expert Rev Mol Diagn. 2016;16(3):307-22. doi: 10.1586/14737159.2016.1139457. Epub 2016 Feb 17.


The unique pathogenesis of tuberculosis (TB) poses several barriers to the development of accurate diagnostics: a) the establishment of life-long latency by Mycobacterium tuberculosis (M.tb) after primary infection confounds the development of classical antibody or antigen based assays; b) our poor understanding of the molecular pathways that influence progression from latent to active disease; c) the intracellular nature of M.tb infection in tissues means that M.tb and/or its components, are not readily detectable in peripheral specimens; and d) the variable presence of M.tb bacilli in specimens from patients with extrapulmonary TB or children. The literature on the current portfolio of molecular diagnostics tests for TB is reviewed here and the developmental pipeline is summarized. Also reviewed are data from recently published operational research on the GeneXpert MTB/RIF assay and discussed are the lessons that can be taken forward for the design of studies to evaluate the impact of TB diagnostics.

Keywords: FIND; Molecular Diagnostics; Tuberculosis; WHO; Xpert; biomarker; smear microscopy.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Humans
  • Molecular Diagnostic Techniques / methods*
  • Molecular Diagnostic Techniques / standards
  • Mycobacterium tuberculosis / genetics*
  • Mycobacterium tuberculosis / immunology
  • Mycobacterium tuberculosis / isolation & purification
  • Papanicolaou Test / methods
  • Polymerase Chain Reaction / methods
  • Sensitivity and Specificity
  • Serologic Tests / methods
  • Tuberculosis / diagnosis*