PloS one 2017 03 0312(3) e0172881 doi 10.1371/journal.pone.0172881
High tuberculosis (TB) burden countries should consider systematic screening among adults in the general population. We identified symptom screening rules to be used in addition to cough ≥2 weeks, in a context where X-ray screening is not feasible, aiming to increase the sensitivity of screening while achieving a specificity of ≥85%.
We used 2010 Zambia South Africa Tuberculosis and HIV/AIDS Reduction (ZAMSTAR) survey data: a South African (SA) training dataset, a SA testing dataset for internal validation and a Zambian dataset for external validation. Regression analyses investigated relationships between symptoms or combinations of symptoms and active disease. Sensitivity and specificity were calculated for candidate rules.
Among all participants, the sensitivity of using only cough ≥2 weeks as a screening rule was less than 25% in both SA and Zambia. The addition of any three of six TB symptoms (cough <2 weeks, night sweats, weight loss, fever, chest pain, shortness of breath), or 2 or more of cough <2 weeks, night sweats, and weight loss, increased the sensitivity to ~38%, while reducing specificity from ~95% to ~85% in SA and ~97% to ~92% in Zambia. Among HIV-negative adults, findings were similar in SA, whereas in Zambia the increase in sensitivity was relatively small (15% to 22%). CONCLUSION
High TB burden countries should investigate cost-effective strategies for systematic screening: one such strategy could be to use our rule in addition to cough ≥2 weeks.