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Accurate antibiotic susceptibility testing is essential for successful tuberculosis treatment. Recent studies have highlighted the limitations of MIC-based phenotypic susceptibility methods in detecting other aspects of antibiotic susceptibilities in bacteria. Duration and peak of antibiotic exposure, at or above the MIC required for killing the bacterial population, has emerged as another important factor for determining antibiotic susceptibility. This is broadly defined as antibiotic tolerance. Antibiotic tolerance can further facilitate the emergence of antibiotic resistance. Currently, there are limited methods to quantify antibiotic tolerance among clinical M. tuberculosis isolates. In this study, we develop a most-probable-number (MPN)-based minimum duration of killing (MDK) assay to quantify the spectrum of M. tuberculosis rifampicin susceptibility within subpopulations based on the duration of rifampicin exposure required for killing the bacterial population. MDK90-99 and MDK99.99 were defined as the minimum duration of antibiotic exposure at or above the MIC required for killing 90 to 99% and 99.99% of the initial (pretreatment) bacterial population, respectively. Results from the rifampicin MDK assay applied to 28 laboratory and clinical M. tuberculosis isolates showed that there is variation in rifampicin susceptibility among isolates. The rifampicin MDK99 / 99.99 time for isolates varied from less than 2 to 10 days. MDK was correlated with larger subpopulations of M. tuberculosis from clinical isolates that were rifampicin tolerant. Our study demonstrates the utility of MDK assays to measure the variation in antibiotic tolerance among clinical M. tuberculosis isolates and further expands clinically important aspects of antibiotic susceptibility testing.

Original publication





Antimicrobial agents and chemotherapy

Publication Date





e01439 - e01420


Oxford University Clinical Research Unit, Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam.


Mycobacterium tuberculosis, Rifampin, DNA-Directed RNA Polymerases, Antitubercular Agents, Microbial Sensitivity Tests, Drug Resistance, Bacterial