The absence of a gold standard to determine when antibiotics induce a sterilizing cure has confounded the development of new approaches to treat pulmonary tuberculosis (PTB). We detected positron emission tomography and computerized tomography (PET-CT) imaging response patterns consistent with active disease, along with the presence of Mycobacterium tuberculosis (MTB) mRNA in sputum and bronchoalveolar lavage samples, in a substantial proportion of adult, HIV-negative patients with PTB after a standard 6-month treatment plus 1 year follow-up, including patients with a durable cure and others who later developed recurrent disease. The presence of MTB mRNA in the context of nonresolving and intensifying lesions on PET-CT images might indicate ongoing transcription, suggesting that even apparently curative treatment for PTB may not eradicate all of the MTB bacteria in most patients. This suggests an important complementary role for the immune response in maintaining a disease-free state. Sterilizing drugs or host-directed therapies, and better treatment response markers, are probably needed for the successful development of improved and shortened PTB-treatment strategies.