BACKGROUND MicroRNAs (miRNAs) are crucial regulators of human immunity e.g. against Mycobacterium tuberculosis. Against the background of still alarming high mortality of tuberculosis effective biomarkers to improve diagnosis of M. tuberculosis infection and successful treatment are of major importance. CONCLUSIONS This review summarizes recent surrogate tissue studies for identification of miRNA biomarker candidates in human tuberculosis with a special focus on reproducibility and conformance. In addition we provide assistance for the design of biomarker studies to circumvent major pitfalls.