Central nervous system (CNS) tuberculosis, particularly tuberculous meningitis (TBM), is the severest form of Mycobacterium tuberculosis (M.Tb) infection, causing death or severe neurological defects in more than half of those affected, in spite of recent advancements in available anti-tuberculosis treatment. The definitive diagnosis of CNS tuberculosis depends upon the detection of M.Tb bacilli in the cerebrospinal fluid (CSF). At present, the diagnosis of CNS tuberculosis remains a complex issue because the most widely used conventional "gold standard" based on bacteriological detection methods, such as direct smear and culture identification, cannot rapidly detect M.Tb in CSF specimens with sufficient sensitivity in the acute phase of TBM. Recently, instead of the conventional "gold standard", the various molecular-based methods including nucleic acid amplification (NAA) assay technique, particularly polymerase chain reaction (PCR) assay, has emerged as a promising new method for the diagnosis of CNS tuberculosis because of its rapidity, sensitivity and specificity. In addition, the innovation of nested PCR assay technique is worthy of note given its contribution to improve the diagnosis of CNS tuberculosis. In this review, an overview of recent progress of the NAA methods, mainly highlighting the PCR assay technique, was presented.
This article is published online in Tuberculosis Research and Treatment and is free to access.