Differentiation between relapse and reinfection in cases with tuberculosis (TB) recurrence has important implications for public health, especially in patients with human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) co-infection. We compared Mycobacterial Interspersed Repeat Unit (MIRU) typing and spoligotyping with whole genome sequencing (WGS) to differentiate between relapse and reinfection in patients (HIV-positive and HIV-negative) with TB recurrence. We also assessed the value of WGS to track acquired drug resistance in those with relapse after successful treatment.
Forty-one paired M. tuberculosis isolates collected from 20 HIV-positive and 21 HIV-negative patients were subjected to WGS in addition to spoligotyping and MIRU typing. Phylogenetic and Single Nucleotide Substitution (SNP) clustering analyses were performed to determine whether recurrences were due to relapse or re-infection.
Comparison of M. tuberculosis genomes indicated that 95% of TB recurrences in the HIV-negative cohort were due to relapse, while the majority of TB recurrences (75%) in the HIV-positive cohort was due to reinfection (P = 0.0001). New drug resistance mutations were acquired in 5/24 cases (20.8%) that experienced relapse.
WGS provided increased resolution, but differentiation between relapse and reinfection was broadly consistent with MIRU and spoligotyping. The high contribution of reinfection among HIV infected patients experiencing TB recurrence warrants further study to explore risk factors for TB exposure.

Copyright © 2021. Published by Elsevier Ltd.