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New Horizons in the Diagnosis of Tuberculosis of the Spine: The Role of Whole Genome Sequencing.

STUDY DESIGN: Prospective study.

PURPOSE: To evaluate the utility of whole genome sequencing (WGS) in drug resistance testing, lineage of the organisms, and organism- related factors responsible for bacilli settling in the spine.

OVERVIEW OF LITERATURE: The workstream for the diagnosis of tuberculosis (TB) involves isolation and culture of the organism and drug resistance testing using phenotypic methods. Xpert MTB/RIF Ultra is a genetic-based method that detects for Mycobacterium tuberculosis DNA in the rpoB gene. Meanwhile, WGS is a newer genetic-based method that assesses the whole genome of the bacterium. Very few studies have reported the use of WGS for extrapulmonary TB. Herein, we used WGS to diagnose spinal TB.

METHODS: Tissues from 61 patients undergoing surgery for spinal TB underwent histologic examination, Xpert MTB/RIF Ultra, and culture and sensitivity testing. DNA from the cultured bacteria was sent for WGS. The test bacterial genome was compared to a reference strain of pulmonary TB.

RESULTS: Acid-fast bacilli were observed in 9/58 specimens. Meanwhile, histology confirmed TB in all the patients. Bacilli were cultured in 28 patients (48.3%), and the average time to culture was 18.7 days. Xpert MTB/RIF Ultra was positive in 47 patients (85%). WGS was performed in 23 specimens. Overall, 45% of the strains belonged to lineage 2 (East Asian). There was one case of multidrug- resistant TB and two cases of non-tuberculous mycobacteria on WGS. We could not confirm any genomic difference between pulmonary and spinal TB strains.

CONCLUSIONS: Xpert MTB/RIF Ultra of tissues or pus is the investigation of choice when diagnosing spinal TB. Meanwhile, WGS can diagnose multidrug-resistant TB and non-tuberculous mycobacteria more accurately. No mutations were identified in spinal and pulmonary TB bacteria.

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