Laboratory diagnosis of tuberculosis (TB) traditionally relies on smear microscopy and culture of Mycobacterium tuberculosis from clinical samples. With recent advances in technology, there have been numerous efforts to develop new diagnostic tests for TB that overcome the low sensitivity and specificity and long turnover time associated with current diagnostic tests. Molecular biological tests based on nucleic acid amplification have brought an unprecedented opportunity for the rapid and specific detection of M. tuberculosis from clinical specimens. With automated sequencing analysis, species identification of mycobacteria is now easier and more accurate than with conventional methods, and rapid detection of mutations in the genes associated with resistance to TB drugs provides early information on the potential drug resistance for each clinical isolate or for clinical samples. In addition, immunological, tests for the detection of M. tuberculosis antigens and antibodies to the antigens have been explored to identify individuals at risk of developing TB or with latent TB infection (LTBI). The recent introduction of commercial IFN-γ assay kits, for the detection of LTBI provides a new approach for TB control even in areas with a high incidence of TB. However, these molecular and immunological tools still require further evaluation using large scale cohort studies before implementation in TB control programs.
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