Evolution of Phenotypic and Molecular Drug Susceptibility Testing

Adv Exp Med Biol. 2017;1019:221-246. doi: 10.1007/978-3-319-64371-7_12.


Drug Resistant Tuberculosis (DRTB) is an emerging problem world-wide. In order to control the disease and decrease the number of cases overtime a prompt diagnosis followed by an appropriate treatment should be provided to patients. Phenotypic DST based on liquid automated culture has greatly reduced the time needed to generate reliable data but has the drawback to be expensive and prone to contamination in the absence of appropriate infrastructures. In the past 10 years molecular biology tools have been developed. Those tools target the main mutations responsible for DRTB and are now globally accessible in term of cost and infrastructures needed for the implementation. The dissemination of the Xpert MTB/rif has radically increased the capacity to perform the detection of rifampicin resistant TB cases. One of the main challenges for the large scale implementation of molecular based tests is the emergence of conflicting results between phenotypic and genotypic tests. This mines the confidence of clinicians in the molecular tests and delays the initiation of an appropriate treatment. A new technique is revolutionizing the genotypic approach to DST: the WGS by Next-Generation Sequencing technologies. This methodology promises to become the solution for a rapid access to universal DST, able indeed to overcome the limitations of the current phenotypic and genotypic assays. Today the use of the generated information is still challenging in decentralized facilities due to the lack of automation for sample processing and standardization in the analysis.The growing knowledge of the molecular mechanisms at the basis of drug resistance and the introduction of high-performing user-friendly tools at peripheral level should allow the very much needed accurate diagnosis of DRTB in the near future.

Keywords: Molecular drug susceptibility test; Phenotypic drug susceptibility test.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Antitubercular Agents / classification
  • Antitubercular Agents / therapeutic use*
  • Drug Resistance, Multiple, Bacterial / genetics
  • Evolution, Molecular
  • Genes, Bacterial*
  • Humans
  • Microbial Sensitivity Tests / standards*
  • Mutation
  • Mycobacterium tuberculosis / drug effects
  • Mycobacterium tuberculosis / genetics*
  • Mycobacterium tuberculosis / growth & development
  • Mycobacterium tuberculosis / pathogenicity
  • Phenotype
  • Rifampin / therapeutic use
  • Sputum / microbiology
  • Tuberculosis, Multidrug-Resistant / diagnosis
  • Tuberculosis, Multidrug-Resistant / drug therapy*
  • Tuberculosis, Multidrug-Resistant / transmission
  • Tuberculosis, Pulmonary / diagnosis
  • Tuberculosis, Pulmonary / drug therapy*
  • Tuberculosis, Pulmonary / transmission
  • Whole Genome Sequencing


  • Antitubercular Agents
  • Rifampin