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Utilization and Clinical Value of Diagnostic Modalities for Tuberculosis in a High HIV Prevalence Setting

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  • 1 Albert Einstein College of Medicine, Bronx, New York;
  • | 2 Department of Medicine, Edendale Hospital, University of KwaZulu-Natal, KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa;
  • | 3 Department of Medicine, Albert Einstein College of Medicine, Bronx, New York;
  • | 4 Department of Microbiology, Albert Einstein College of Medicine, Bronx, New York;
  • | 5 Department of Immunology, Albert Einstein College of Medicine, Bronx, New York
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Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) infection is a major risk factor for the development of active tuberculosis (TB), one of the deadliest infectious diseases globally. The high mortality associated with the disease can be reduced by early diagnosis and prompt antituberculous treatment initiation. Facilities in TB-endemic regions are increasing the use of nucleic acid amplification (e.g., GeneXpert), which provides rapid results but may have suboptimal sensitivity in HIV-associated TB. Our objective was to evaluate the current practices for TB diagnosis at Edendale Hospital, a large regional hospital in KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa—a TB-endemic region with high HIV prevalence. In this cross-sectional study, all adult inpatients newly started on TB treatment at Edendale were identified over a 6-week period. Demographics, clinical information, diagnostic test results, and outcomes were documented. Pulmonary TB (PTB), extrapulmonary TB (EXTB), and PTB + EXTB were defined as disease evidence in the lungs, other organs, or both, respectively. Ninety-four cases were identified, of which 83% were HIV-associated. Only 30% of all TB patients were microbiologically confirmed, consisting of 7/16 (44%) HIV-uninfected and 21/78 (27%) HIV-infected TB patients. Smear microscopy and mycobacterial culture were seldom ordered. Ultrasound was performed in about one-third of suspected EXTB cases and was valuable in identifying abdominal TB. In this clinical setting with a high incidence of HIV-associated TB, TB diagnosis was more commonly based on clinical assessment and imaging results than on mycobacterial gold standard test confirmation.

Author Notes

Address correspondence to Jacqueline M. Achkar, Albert Einstein College of Medicine, 1300 Morris Park Ave., Block Bldg. Rm. 115, Bronx, NY 10461. E-mail: jacqueline.achkar@einstein.yu.edu

Financial support: This work was supported in part by institutional funds from the Global Health Center of the Albert Einstein College of Medicine and from the National Institute of Health/National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIH/NIAID; AI117927 to J. M. A.). D. W. reports grants from London School of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene, outside the submitted work.

Authors’ addresses: Stephanie Gati and Jacqueline M. Achkar, Albert Einstein College of Medicine, Bronx, NY, E-mails: sgati@mail.einstein.yu.edu and jacqueline.achkar@einstein.yu.edu. Rhoda Chetty and Douglas Wilson, Edendale Hospital, Pietermaritzburg, South Africa, E-mails: rhoda.jo21@gmail.com and wilsondpk@gmail.com.

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