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Universal access to drug susceptibility testing for newly diagnosed tuberculosis patients is recommended. Access to culture-based diagnostics remains limited, and targeted molecular assays are vulnerable to emerging resistance mutations. Improved protocols for direct-from-sputum Mycobacterium tuberculosis sequencing would accelerate access to comprehensive drug susceptibility testing and molecular typing. We assessed a thermo-protection buffer-based direct-from-sample M. tuberculosis whole-genome sequencing protocol. We prospectively analyzed 60 acid-fast bacilli smear-positive clinical sputum samples in India and Madagascar. A diversity of semiquantitative smear positivity-level samples were included. Sequencing was performed using Illumina and MinION (monoplex and multiplex) technologies. We measured the impact of bacterial inoculum and sequencing platforms on genomic read depth, drug susceptibility prediction performance, and typing accuracy. M. tuberculosis was identified by direct sputum sequencing in 45/51 samples using Illumina, 34/38 were identified using MinION-monoplex sequencing, and 20/24 were identified using MinION-multiplex sequencing. The fraction of M. tuberculosis reads from MinION sequencing was lower than from Illumina, but monoplexing grade 3+ samples on MinION produced higher read depth than Illumina (P 0.05) and MinION multiplexing (P 0.01). No significant differences in sensitivity and specificity of drug susceptibility predictions were seen across sequencing modalities or within each technology when stratified by smear grade. Illumina sequencing from sputum accurately identified 1/8 (rifampin) and 6/12 (isoniazid) resistant samples, compared to 2/3 (rifampin) and 3/6 (isoniazid) accurately identified with Nanopore monoplex. Lineage agreement levels between direct and culture-based sequencing were 85% (MinION-monoplex), 88% (Illumina), and 100% (MinION-multiplex). M. tuberculosis direct-from-sample whole-genome sequencing remains challenging. Improved and affordable sample treatment protocols are needed prior to clinical deployment.

Original publication




Journal article


Journal of clinical microbiology

Publication Date



Foundation for Medical Research, Mumbai, Maharashtra, India.