Mycobacteriosis and Tuberculosis: Laboratory Diagnosis

Davood Azadi1, Tahereh Motallebirad2, Kazem Ghaffari1, Hasan Shojaei2, *
1 Department of Laboratory Sciences, Khomein University of Medical Sciences, Khomein, Iran
2 Department of Microbiology, School of Medicine, Isfahan University of Medical Sciences, Isfahan Iran

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© 2018 Azadi et al.

open-access license: This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International Public License (CC-BY 4.0), a copy of which is available at: ( This license permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.

* Address correspondence to this author at the Department of Microbiology, School of Medicine, Isfahan University of Medical Sciences, Isfahan, Iran; Tel: +98-311-3359359; Fax: +98-311-3373735; E-mail:



Tuberculosis is one of the most important infectious diseases that has claimed its victims throughout much of known human history. With Koch's discovery of the tubercle bacillus as the etiologic agent of the disease, his sanitary and hygienic measures, which were based on his discovery and the development of a vaccine against tuberculosis by Albert Calmette and Camille Guérin in 1921, an attenuated Mycobacterium bovis strain, bacilli Calmette-Guérin (BCG), and the discovery of the first antibiotic against tuberculosis, streptomycin by Selman Waksman in 1943, soon led to the opinion that appropriate control measures had become available for tuberculosis and it had been assumed that the disease could ultimately be eradicated.

The emergence of resistant strains of this bacteria and widespread distribution of the disease in the world, and the emergence of the AIDS epidemic destroyed any possibility of global control of tuberculosis in the foreseeable future.


The purpose of this review is to highlight the current scientific literature on mycobacterial infections and provide an overview on the laboratory diagnosis of tuberculosis and non-tuberculosis infections based on conventional phenotypic and modern molecular assays.


In this study, a number of 65 papers comprising 20 reviews, 9 case reports, and 36 original research in association with mycobacteriosis and the laboratory diagnosis of mycobacterial infections, were reviewed.


Based on our analysis on the published documents methods applied for the laboratory diagnosis of tuberculosis are continually assessed and developed in order to achieve more rapid, less expensive, and accurate results. Acid-fast staining and culture for mycobacteria remain at the core of any diagnostic algorithm with the sensitivity of 20-70% and specificity of 95-98% for AFB microscopy and the sensitivity of 95% and the specificity of 98% for culture based diagnosis. Following growth in culture, molecular tests such as nucleic acid hybridization probes and DNA sequencing may be used for definitive species identification. Nucleic acid amplification methods provide the means for direct detection of Mycobacterium tuberculosis in respiratory specimens without the prerequisite to isolate or culture the organism, leading to more rapid diagnosis and better patient care.


As the researchers in a developing country, we strongly believe that despite significant advances in laboratory capacity, in many countries reliable confirmation of suspected mycobacterial diseases is hindered by a lack of knowledge on proper standardized methods, sufficient funds, suitably trained staff and laboratory supplies.

Keywords: Mycobacteriosis, Mycobacteria, Mycobacterial disease, Acid-fast staining, Laboratory diagnosis, Mycobacterium bovis.