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      Serological tests for the diagnosis of active tuberculosis: relevance for India

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          Abstract

          Diagnostic tests for active tuberculosis (TB) based on the detection of antibodies (serological tests) have been commercially available for decades, although no international guidelines have recommended their use. An estimated 1.5 million serological TB tests, mainly enzyme-linked immunosorbent assays, are performed in India alone every year, mostly in the private sector. The cost of serological tests in India is conservatively estimated at US $15 million ( 825 million) per year. Findings from systematic reviews on the diagnostic accuracy of serological tests for both pulmonary and extra-pulmonary TB suggest that these tests are inaccurate and imprecise. A cost-effectiveness modelling study suggests that, if used as a replacement test for sputum microscopy, serology would increase costs to the Indian TB control sector approximately 4-fold and result in fewer disability-adjusted life years averted and more false-positive diagnoses. After considering all available evidence, the World Health Organization issued a strong recommendation against the use of currently available commercial serological tests for the diagnosis of TB disease. The expanding evidence base continues to demonstrate that the harms/risks of serological tests far outweigh the benefits. Greater engagement of the private sector is needed to discontinue the use of serological tests and to replace these tests with WHO-endorsed new diagnostics in India. The recent ban on import or sale of TB serological tests by the Indian health ministry is a welcome step in the right direction.

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          Most cited references 25

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          World Health Organization.

           Ala Alwan (2007)
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            Facing the crisis: improving the diagnosis of tuberculosis in the HIV era.

            Although the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) infection pandemic has had a catastrophic impact on tuberculosis (TB) control efforts, especially in sub-Saharan Africa, most of the fundamental concepts reflected in the directly observed treatment, short course (DOTS) strategy still hold true in the HIV era. What has changed, and dramatically, is the importance of speedy and accurate TB diagnosis and the difficulty of achieving this. The disproportionate amount of smear-negative disease in sub-Saharan Africa, which shoulders two-thirds of the global burden of HIV infection and acquired immunodeficiency syndrome, has greatly complicated TB case detection and disease control. Now, 15 years after TB rates began to soar in countries where HIV infection is prevalent, we have learned that the conventional approach -- passively waiting for patients with advanced symptomatic disease to make their way to microscopy centers for diagnosis -- has disastrous consequences. Without better diagnostic tools for TB and effective strategies for their implementation, transmission will not be interrupted, mortality will not be checked, and TB will not be controlled in areas where HIV infection is prevalent. Fortunately, a number of technical opportunities exist for the creation of improved diagnostic tests. Developing and exploiting such tests to support TB control in HIV-infected populations is an urgent priority. A substantial public sector effort is under way to work in partnership with the biotechnology industry to accelerate progress toward that goal. In this article, we will define the need for better TB tests and describe technologies being developed to meet that need.
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              A systematic review of rapid diagnostic tests for the detection of tuberculosis infection.

              To evaluate the effectiveness of available rapid diagnostic tests to identify tuberculosis (TB) infection. Electronic databases were searched from 1975 to August 2003 for tests for active TB and to March 2004 for tests for latent tuberculosis infection (LTBI). Studies were selected and evaluated that (1) tested for LTBI, (2) compared tuberculin skin test (TST) and interferon-gamma assays based on ESAT-6 and CFP-10 antigens and (3) provided information on TB exposure or bacille Calmette-Guerin (BCG) vaccination or HIV status. For each test comparison, the sensitivity, specificity and 95% confidence intervals (CIs) were calculated. Sources of heterogeneity were investigated by adding covariates to the standard regression model. The authors examined whether interferon-gamma assays were more strongly associated with high versus low TB exposure than TST. Odds ratios (ORs) were calculated for the association between test results and exposures from each study along with their 95% CIs. Within each study, the OR value for one test was divided by that for another to produce a ratio of OR (ROR). A total of 212 studies were included, providing 368 data sets. A further 19 studies assessing fully automated liquid culture were included. Overall, nucleic acid amplification test (NAAT) accuracy was far superior when applied to respiratory samples as opposed to other body fluids. The better quality in-house studies, were, for pulmonary TB, much better at ruling out TB than the commercial tests (higher sensitivity), but were less good at ruling it in (lower specificity), but it is not possible to recommend any one over another owing to a lack of direct test comparisons. The specificity of NAAT tests was high when applied to body fluids, for example for TB meningitis and pleural TB, but sensitivity was poor, indicating that these tests cannot be used reliably to rule out TB. High specificity estimates suggest that NAAT tests should be the first-line test for ruling in TB meningitis, but that they need to be combined with the result of other tests in order to rule out disease. Evidence for NAAT tests in other forms of TB and for phage-based tests is significantly less prolific than for those above and further research is needed to establish accuracy. There is no evidence to support the use of adenosine deaminase (ADA) tests for diagnosis of pulmonary TB; however, there is considerable evidence to support their use for diagnosis of pleural TB and to a slightly lesser extent for TB meningitis. Anti-TB antibody test performance was universally poor, regardless of type of TB. Fully automated liquid culture methods were superior to culture on solid media, in terms of their speed and their precision. In total, 13 studies were included. Assays based on RD1 specific antigens, ESAT-6 or CFP-10, correlate better with intensity of exposure, and therefore are more likely than TST/purified protein derivative (PPD)-based assays to detect LTBI accurately. An additional advantage is that they are more likely to be independent of BCG vaccination status and HIV status. The NAAT tests provide a reliable way of increasing the specificity of diagnosis (ruling in disease) but sensitivity is too poor to rule out disease, especially in smear-negative (paucibacillary) disease where clinical diagnosis is equivocal and where the clinical need is greatest. For extra-pulmonary TB, clinical judgement has both poor sensitivity and specificity. For pleural TB and TB meningitis, adenosine deaminase tests have high sensitivity but limited specificity. NAATs have high specificity and could be used alongside ADA (or interferon-gamma) to increase sensitivity for ruling out disease and NAAT for high specificity to rule it in. All studies from low-prevalence countries strongly suggest that the RD1 antigen-based assays are more accurate than TST- and PPD-based assays for diagnosis of LTBI. If their superior diagnostic capability is found to hold up in routine clinical practice, they could confer several advantages on TB control programmes. Further research for active TB needs to establish diagnostic accuracy in a wide spectrum of patients, against an appropriate reference test, and avoiding the major sources of bias. For LTBI, research needs to address different epidemiological and clinical settings, to evaluate the performance of the main existing commercial assays in head-to-head comparison in both developed and developing countries, and to assess the role of adding more TB-specific antigens to try to improve diagnostic sensitivity.
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                Author and article information

                Journal
                Indian J Med Res
                Indian J. Med. Res
                IJMR
                The Indian Journal of Medical Research
                Medknow Publications & Media Pvt Ltd (India )
                0971-5916
                May 2012
                : 135
                : 5
                : 695-702
                Affiliations
                [a ] Department of Health Services, University of Washington School of Public Health, Seattle, Washington, USA
                [b ] UNICEF/UNDP/World Bank/WHO Special Programme for Research & Training in Tropical Diseases (TDR), World Health Organization, Geneva, Switzerland
                [c ] Department of Epidemiology, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, Baltimore, USA
                [d ] Department of Epidemiology, Biostatistics & Occupational Health, McGill University & Epidemiology, Canada
                [e ] Department of Epidemiology, Biostatistics & Occupational Health, Respiratory Clinical Research Unit & Montréal Chest Institute, Montréal, Canada
                Author notes
                Reprint requests: Dr. Karen R Steingart, Affiliate Assistant Professor, Department of Health Services, University of Washington School of Public Health, Seattle, WA 98195-7660, USA e-mail: karenst@ 123456uw.edu
                Article
                IJMR-135-695
                3401705
                22771604
                Copyright: © The Indian Journal of Medical Research

                This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 Unported, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

                Categories
                Review Article

                Medicine

                sensitivity and specificity, tuberculosis, serology, diagnosis, antibody

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