The changing face of the epidemiology of tuberculosis due to molecular strain typing--a review

Mem Inst Oswaldo Cruz. May-Jun 1997;92(3):297-316. doi: 10.1590/s0074-02761997000300001.


About one third of the world population is infected with tubercle bacilli, causing eight million new cases of tuberculosis (TB) and three million deaths each year. After years of lack of interest in the disease, World Health Organization recently declared TB a global emergency and it is clear that there is need for more efficient national TB programs and newly defined research priorities. A more complete epidemiology of tuberculosis will lead to a better identification of index cases and to a more efficient treatment of the disease. Recently, new molecular tools became available for the identification of strains of Mycobacterium tuberculosis (M. tuberculosis), allowing a better recognition of transmission routes of defined strains. Both a standardized restriction-fragment-length-polymorphism-based methodology for epidemiological studies on a large scale and deoxyribonucleic acids (DNA) amplification-based methods that allow rapid detection of outbreaks with multidrug-resistant (MDR) strains, often characterized by high mortality rates, have been developed. This review comments on the existing methods of DNA-based recognition of M. tuberculosis strains and their peculiarities. It also summarizes literature data on the application of molecular fingerprinting for detection of outbreaks of M. tuberculosis, for identification of index cases, for study of interaction between TB and infection with the human immuno-deficiency virus, for analysis of the behavior of MDR strains, for a better understanding of risk factors for transmission of TB within communities and for population-based studies of TB transmission within and between countries.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Humans
  • Mycobacterium tuberculosis / classification*
  • Tuberculosis / diagnosis
  • Tuberculosis / epidemiology*