First discovered in 1882 by Robert Koch, M. tuberculosis has an unusual, waxy coating on its cell surface (primarily due to the presence of mycolic acid), which makes the cells impervious to Gram staining; M. tuberculosis can appear Gram-negative and Gram-positive in clinical settings.
The Ziehl-Neelsen stain, or acid-fast stain, is used instead. The physiology of M. tuberculosis is highly aerobic and requires high levels of oxygen. Primarily a pathogen of the mammalian respiratory system, it infects the lungs. The most frequently used diagnostic methods for tuberculosis are the tuberculin skin test, acid-fast stain, and chest radiographs.
The M. tuberculosis genome was sequenced in 1998