Sci Rep. 2021 Jul 9;11(1):14194. doi: 10.1038/s41598-021-93501-4.
Tuberculosis (TB), caused by Mycobacterium tuberculosis, is endemic in Pakistan. Resistance to both firstline rifampicin and isoniazid drugs (multidrug-resistant TB; MDR-TB) is hampering disease control. Rifampicin resistance is attributed to rpoB gene mutations, but rpoA and rpoC loci may also be involved. To characterise underlying rifampicin resistance mutations in the TB endemic province of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, we sequenced 51 M. tuberculosis isolates collected between 2016 and 2019; predominantly, MDR-TB (n = 44; 86.3%) and lineage 3 (n = 30, 58.8%) strains. We found that known mutations in rpoB (e.g. S405L), katG (e.g. S315T), or inhA promoter loci explain the MDR-TB. There were 24 unique mutations in rpoA, rpoB, and rpoC genes, including four previously unreported. Five instances of within-host resistance diversity were observed, where two were a mixture of MDR-TB strains containing mutations in rpoB, katG, and the inhA promoter region, as well as compensatory mutations in rpoC. Heteroresistance was observed in two isolates with a single lineage. Such complexity may reflect the high transmission nature of the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa setting. Our study reinforces the need to apply sequencing approaches to capture the full-extent of MDR-TB genetic diversity, to understand transmission, and to inform TB control activities in the highly endemic setting of Pakistan.