Recurrent tuberculosis (TB) is one of the main challenges in TB control. Genotyping based on Mycobacterial Interspersed Repetitive Units–Variable Tandem Repeats (MIRU-VNTR) has been widely used to differentiate between relapse and reinfection, which are the two main causes of recurrent TB. There is a lack of data regarding the causes of TB recurrence in Georgia, and while differentiating between relapse and reinfection plays a key role in defining appropriate interventions, the required genotyping methodologies have not been implemented. The objective of this study was to implement MIRU-VNTR genotyping at the National Center for Tuberculosis and Lung Diseases (NCTBLD) and differentiate between relapse and reinfection in multidrug resistant (MDR-) TB patients from Tbilisi, Georgia.


Recurrent MDR tuberculosis cases from 2014–2016 diagnosed at NCTLD were included in the study when bacterial samples from both episodes were available. Genotyping based on the MIRU-VNTR 24 loci was implemented and used for differentiating between relapse and reinfection. Paired samples showing the same MIRU-VNTR pattern or one locus difference were classified as relapse, while two and more loci differences were treated as reinfection. Exact logistic regression was used to identify predictors of recurrence.


Thirty two MDR-TB patients (64 samples) were included and MIRU-VNTR 24 typing was performed on the corresponding paired samples. Of the 32 patients, 25 (83.3%) were identified as relapse while 5 (16.7%) were due to re-infection. Patients with a history of incarceration were significantly associated with TB reinfection (p< 0.05).


Recurrent TB in MDR patients in Georgia are mainly caused by relapse, raising concerns on the efficacy of the TB control program. An association between incarceration and reinfection likely reflects high levels of ongoing TB transmission in prisons, indicating the need for better TB infection control measures in these settings. Our results add to the rationale for implementing genotypic surveillance of TB more broadly to support TB control in Georgia.


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Citation: Maghradze N, Jugheli L, Borrell S, Tukvadze N, Aspindzelashvili R, Avaliani Z, et al. (2019) Classifying recurrent Mycobacterium tuberculosis cases in Georgia using MIRU-VNTR typing. PLoS ONE 14(10): e0223610. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0223610