Tuberculosis research for dummies

This is a work in progress article to form an easily understandable starting point for biologists new to TB research. I’m publishing it in incomplete form mainly as a to-do list for myself. The goal is to link to a FEW comprehensive reviews and landmark historical papers because the number of reviews out there is really overwhelming.

This is not for laypersons seeking basic information about TB as a disease, you can easily find that elsewhere.

Anatomy of the bug

In vitro growth characteristics

  • Classical growth media
  • What is the meaning of Rough vs Smooth colonies
  • Approximate doubling times of lab strains
  • Why do we grow it in broth with surfactant, and what are the circumstances where yo shouldn’t
  • What is OADC
  • Decontaminating clinical isolates for culture
  • How is MGIT used in research besides clinical diagnostics
  • Antibiotic resistance genes that can be used for reporter or expression plasmids
  • Transformation of Mtb with plasmids


  • Mycobrowser: database of genes for Mtb H37Rv and a bunch of other reference species/strains
  • The “Rv” numbering system, where does it come from?
  • RD1 and what genes are in it (therefore, which antigens would you NOT expect to see adaptive responses to from BCG-vaccinated-only individuals)
  • What antigens are in PPD
  • What antigens are in Quantiferon

Other differences between Mtb and M.bovis versus non-tuberculous mycobacteria (NTMs)

Common lab strains and where they came from

  • H37Rv vs H47Ra
  • CDC1551
  • Erdman
  • Strains of BCG
  • Strains of smeg

History for nerds

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