Mycobacterium tuberculosis Beijing genotype: A template for success
The diverse clinico- and histopathological features, frequency of transmission and treatment outcome of Mycobacterium tuberculosis have been associated with several environmental, host and bacterial factors. Many Mycobacterium tuberculosis genotypes have been studied in an attempt to understand the genetic variations among the different genotypes and to clarify their contribution to phenotypic differences. Strains of the Beijing genotype have been extensively investigated due to their increased ability to spread and cause disease. Here we review the evidence of hypervirulence of the Beijing genotype as well as other Beijing-associated phenotypic characteristics such as alternate host immune modulation, clinical and pathological features, drug resistance, resistance to BCG vaccination and other epidemiological features to enhance our understanding of the contribution of pathogenic factors. From the data collected it is clear that the genetic background of Mycobacterium tuberculosis may influence the differential induction of the immune response, drug resistance patterns and clinical, epidemiological and pathogenic features which define disease progression following infection. This highlights the importance of ongoing research into the genetic mechanisms underlying the phenotypic and genotypic characteristics of different Mycobacterium tuberculosis genotype strains. Furthermore, these findings could help to direct future drug, vaccine and diagnostic test development towards targeting critical virulence factors and to identify persons at risk for developing active disease thereby limiting transmission and the perpetuation of the tuberculosis epidemic.