Title:A revaluation of the use of conventional Ziehl-Neelsen stain for detection of non-tuberculous mycobacteria

Author:John M Aitken, Thomas J Borody and Gaurav Agrawal

Abstract:Detection of non-tuberculous mycobacteria is difficult and not always consistent. These organisms are emerging as opportunistic pathogens in a number of clinical conditions, in part due to their remarkable stress intolerance. The Ziehl-Neelsen stain is optimal for the detection of Mycobacterium tuberculosis complex but is less reliable for the detection of non-tuberculous mycobacteria when using acid-alcohol as a decolouriser. Acid alcohol decolourisation should not be relied on where non-tuberculous mycobacteria are suspected, or the possibility of dormant forms of mycobacteria exists. In those instances other decolourisation methods should be considered, such 20-25% sulphuric acid or Gabbett's methylene blue.
Keywords: mycobacteria, Ziehl-Neelsen stain, non-tuberculous mycobacteria, mycobacteria staining methods, basic fuchsin.
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