Polymerase chain reaction (PCR) using primers targeting the IS6110 repetitive sequence was employed to detect Mycobacterium tuberculosis in 228 samples from patients with tuberculosis or other pulmonary diseases and controls, and the results were compared with culture and clinical findings. None of culture negative samples from 17 healthy controls were PCR positive. Of 109 active tuberculosis patients under chemotherapy, 88 (80.7%) were PCR positive and were significantly higher than 63 (57.8%) positive by culture. Fifty-nine (93.7) of 63 culture positive and 29 (63.0%) of 46 culture negative specimens contained M. tuberculosis detectable by PCR. In 41 specimens from inactive tuberculosis patients who visited to the chest clinic because of chest problems, 16 (39.0%) also gave PCR positive results. In addition, 14 (46.7%) of 30 specimens submitted for M. tuberculosis culture from patients with pulmonary diseases were PCR positive. Presumptive diagnosis of these PCR positive patients was bronchitis, pneumonia, bronchial asthma, etc. Therefore, this study suggests that PCR is sensitive and specific in detecting M. tuberculosis in clinical specimens. However, the interpretation of the PCR results in specimens from patients with pulmonary diseases should be done cautiously in areas with a high prevalence of tuberculosis.
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