Background: The WHO has recommended the implementation of rapid diagnostic tests to detect and help combat M/XDR tuberculosis (TB). There are limited data on the performance and impact of these tests in field settings.
Methods: The performance of the commercially available Genotype MTBDRplus molecular assay was compared to conventional methods including AFB smear, culture and drug susceptibility testing (DST) using both an absolute concentration method on Löwenstein-Jensen media and broth-based method using the MGIT 960 system. Sputum specimens were obtained from TB suspects in the country of Georgia who received care through the National TB Program.
Results: Among 500 AFB smear-positive sputum specimens, 458 (91.6%) had both a positive sputum culture for Mycobacterium tuberculosis and a valid MTBDRplus assay result. The MTBDRplus assay detected isoniazid (INH) resistance directly from the sputum specimen in 159 (89.8%) of 177 specimens and MDR-TB in 109 (95.6%) of 114 specimens compared to conventional methods. There was high agreement between the MTBDRplus assay and conventional DST results in detecting MDR-TB (kappa = 0.95, p<0.01). The most prevalent INH resistance mutation was S315T (78%) in the katG codon and the most common rifampicin resistance mutation was S531L (68%) in the rpoB codon. Among 13 specimens from TB suspects with negative sputum cultures, 7 had a positive MTBDRplus assay (3 with MDR-TB). The time to detection of MDR-TB was significantly less using the MTBDRplus assay (4.2 days) compared to the use of standard phenotypic tests (67.3 days with solid media and 21.6 days with broth-based media).
Conclusions: Compared to conventional methods, the MTBDRplus assay had high accuracy and significantly reduced time to detection of MDR-TB in an area with high MDR-TB prevalence. The use of rapid molecular diagnostic tests for TB and drug resistance should increase the proportion of patients promptly placed on appropriate therapy.