In South Africa, drug resistant tuberculosis is a major public health crisis in the face of the colossal HIV pandemic.
In an attempt to understand the distribution of drug resistance in our setting, we analysed the rpoB, katG, inhA, pncA and embB genes associated with resistance to key drugs used in the treatment of tuberculosis in clinical isolates of Mycobacterium tuberculosis in the KwaZulu-Natal province.
Classical mutations were detected in the katG, inhA and embB genes associated with resistance to isoniazid and ethambutol. Diverse mutations were recorded in the multidrug resistant (MDR) and extensively drug resistant (XDR) isolates for the rpoB and pncA gene associated with resistance to rifampicin and pyrazinamide.
M.tuberculosis strains circulating in our setting display a combination of previously observed mutations, each mediating resistance to a different drug. The MDR and XDR TB isolates analysed in this study displayed classical mutations linked to INH and EMB resistance, whilst diverse mutations were linked to RIF and PZA resistance. The similarity of the XDR strains confirms reports of the clonality of the XDR epidemic. The successful dissemination of the drug resistant strains in the province underscores the need for rapid diagnostics to effectively diagnose drug resistance and guide treatment.