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Open Access Highly Accessed Research article

Rifampicin resistance mutations in the 81 bp RRDR of rpoB gene in Mycobacterium tuberculosis clinical isolates using Xpert® MTB/RIF in Kampala, Uganda: a retrospective study

Gerald Mboowa*, Carolyn Namaganda and Willy Ssengooba

Author Affiliations

Department of Medical Microbiology, School of Biomedical Sciences, College of Health Sciences, Makerere University, P.O Box 7072, Kampala, Uganda

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BMC Infectious Diseases 2014, 14:481  doi:10.1186/1471-2334-14-481

Published: 4 September 2014



Introduction of Xpert® MTB/RIF assay has revolutionalised the diagnosis of tuberculosis (TB) by simultaneously detecting the bacteria and resistance to rifampicin (rif), a surrogate marker for multi-drug resistant TB (MDR-TB) as well as one of the principal first-line anti-tuberculosis drugs. In general, rpoB mutations can be found in 96.1% of rif-resistant Mycobacterium tuberculosis (MTB) strains worldwide and these mutations usually are located in a region at the 507-533rd amino acid residuals (81 bp) in the MTB rpoB gene, which is referred to as Rifampicin-resistance-determining region (RRDR). In this study, we determined the frequency of MDR-TB in Kampala using Xpert® MTB/RIF in comparison with the agar proportion method using Middlebrook 7H11and further determined the frequency of probes for different rpoB gene mutations using Xpert® MTB/RIF assay in the 81 bp RRDR.


A total of 1501 specimens received at Mycobacteriology laboratory, Makerere University for Xpert testing between May 2011 and May 2014 were analysed by Xpert® MTB/RIF assay. Specimens that were positive for both MTB and rifampicin resistance were further subjected to a complete first line anti-mycobacterial drug susceptibility testing using Middlebrook 7H11 agar proportion method (APM).


Xpert® MTB/RIF assay detected 313 MTB positive specimens and out of which 12 specimens had both MTB and rifampicin- resistance conferred by four different rpoB gene mutations in the 81 bp-RRDR of MTB, further one (1/12), specimen was found to be rifampicin mono-resistant on APM while the 11 were found to be MDR-TB. Probes associated with the observed rif- resistance were as follows: E (7/12), B (3/12), A (1/12), D (1/12) and no rif-resistance was associated with probe C. No specimen yielded rif-resistance associated with more than one probe failure (mutation combinations). Probe D was associated with rifampicin mono-resistant.


MDR-TB was at 3.5% in the studied population. Mutations associated with Probe E (58%) also known as codons 531and 533 are the commonest rpoB gene mutation identified by Xpert® MTB/RIF assay in this setting and mutations identified by probe E of the assay, turned out to be MDR-TB strains by agar proportion method antimicrobial susceptibility testing. No mutation was detected in the codon 522.

Rifampicin-resistance-determining region; RNA polymerase B gene; Multi-drug Resistant tuberculosis; Xpert® MTB/RIF