Diagnostic value of symptom screening for pulmonary tuberculosis in China

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Objective: To evaluate the diagnostic value of symptom screening for tuberculosis (TB) case finding defined in National Tuberculosis Control Program in China (China NTP) among elderly people(≥65 years) and younger people(<65 years). Methods: We made a secondary analysis in a population-based TB prevalence survey in China in 2010. Questionnaire including information for cough and haemoptysis was completed by face to face interview, and then chest radiography was conducted in all eligible participants. Sputum smear and culture were followed for all TB suspects. We calculated the odds ratios (OR), sensitivity, specificity, positive predictive value (PPV), negative predictive value (NPV) and the area under the receiver operating characteristic curve (AUC) of using different symptoms for screening to detect bacteriologically positive TB in subpopulations stratified by age 65, to evaluate the performance of symptom screening for TB. Findings: Of 315 newly diagnosed bacteriologically positive TB, 131 patients (41.59%) were elderly, and 48.57% of TB patients were asymptomatic. Nearly 50% patients did not present cough of any duration, and less than half present cough more than 2 weeks, a defined suspected symptom in China NTP. Cough of any duration was reported more in patients aged under 65 than those in elderly, especially for the acute cough (9.78% vs 6.87%). Those symptoms defined by China NTP were reported by less than half participants in two subpopulations. Acute cough (<2 weeks) was an independent predictor of TB in people aged under 65 (adjusted OR: 3.3, 95% CI: 2.0-5.5), but not in those aged 65 and above (adjusted OR: 1.4, 95% CI: 0.7-2.9). The specificity for each symptom was significantly higher in participants aged under 65 (P<0.01), and sensitivities of most symptoms were significantly higher among elderly (P<0.05 or P<0.01). When compared with cough for 2 weeks and more, using cough of any duration for symptom screening increased the sensitivity from 42.9% to 51. % for all participants, and the AUC increased from 0.70 to 0.74 for participants aged under 65 without significant difference. Conclusions: There is a high percent of asymptomatic TB patients, and those symptoms adopted in China NTP for screening is poorly predictive for TB. The presence of TB symptoms, the sensitivities and specificities of symptoms for TB were distinct between two subpopulations cut by age 65, implying different case finding strategies should be established for them. The current case finding strategy should be improved, and further studies should be done to evaluate the performance and cost-effectiveness of different symptom screening strategy.




Cheng, J., Wang, L., Zhang, H., & Xia, Y. (2015). Diagnostic value of symptom screening for pulmonary tuberculosis in China. PLoS ONE, 10(5). https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0127725

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