BACKGROUND: The prevalence of multidrug resistant tuberculosis (MDR-TB), resistant to isoniazid (INH) and rifampin (RFP), was 5.3% worldwide in 1995 and its increment has raised important public health problems. Resistance to RFP, one of the key drugs in the treatment of tuberculosis, results in grim clinical outcome. Recently rapid detection of RFP-resistant mutations in rpoB gene based on PCR method has become available. This study evaluated the prevalence of RFP resistance in first diagnosed, treatment failure, and recurred patients using INNO-LiPA test, and compared the results of INNO-LiPA with those of conventional mycobacterial drug susceptibility test. METHODS: Forty-six patients, who were diagnosed of pulmonary tuberculosis and had revealed positive sputum AFB smear, were enrolled in this study from 1998 to 2002. The cases were classified as one three groups; first diagnosed, treatment failure, or recurred. RFP resistance was studied using an INNO-LiPA Rif. TB kit and compared with that obtained from drug susceptibility based on M. tuberculosis culture study. RESULTS: Twenty-one out of 46 patients were enrolled under first diagnosis of pulmonary tuberculosis, 17 under treatment failure with first line drugs, and 8 under recurrence. The positive and negative predictive values of INNO-LiPA test in diagnosis in RFP resistant tuberculosis compared with conventional mycobacterial drug susceptibility test were 85.7% and 76.0%, respectively. INNO-LiPA result revealed rpoB gene mutation in 20 (80.0%) out of 25 patients who were diagnosed as treatment failure or recurrence, but in only 4 (19.0%) out of 21 patients who were first diagnosed as pulmonary tuberculosis. CONCLUSION: This study showed that RFP resistance could be diagnosed rapidly and accurately using INNO-LiPA test and that this test might be helpful for choosing second line anti-mycobacterial drugs. It might be of great help in clinical diagnosis and decision when used in complimentarily with drug susceptibility test based on M. tuberculosis culture.