Free Content Management of pulmonary tuberculosis suspects with negative sputum smears and normal or minimally abnormal chest radiographs in resource-poor settings

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Abstract:

SETTING: Queen Elizabeth Central Hospital, Blantyre, Malawi.

OBJECTIVES: 1) To determine the proportion of pulmonary tuberculosis (PTB) suspects with negative sputum smears and a normal/minimally abnormal chest radiograph (CXR) who are culture-positive for Mycobacterium tuberculosis, and 2) to determine how many develop smear or radiographic evidence of PTB (TB CXR) during follow-up.

METHODS: PTB suspects with negative sputum smears and a normal/minimally abnormal CXR were given a second course of antibiotics and followed up at 3-week intervals over 3 months with repeat sputum smears and chest radiography.

RESULTS: Of 79 patients (38 men and 41 women, mean age 33 years) with negative smears and a normal/minimally abnormal CXR, 16 (21%) were culture-positive for M. tuberculosis. Of 15 culture-positive patients who were alive and attended follow-up, seven (47%) developed a TB-CXR by 3 months. Of 41 culture-negative patients who were alive and attended follow-up, 13 (32%) developed a TB-CXR, including one patient who became sputum smear-positive. TB-CXRs were found only in patients with a cough.

CONCLUSION: TB suspects with negative smears and normal/minimally abnormal CXRs in high human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) prevalent countries should be given a second course of antibiotics. If cough improves, patients can be advised not to return for further follow-up. If cough continues, patients should return for further follow-up with sputum smear examination and chest radiography. Approximately 50% of those who have culture-positive PTB will develop a TB-CXR by 3 months and can be identified if radiographic facilities are available.

Keywords: normal chest radiography; smear-negative pulmonary tuberculosis

Document Type: Regular Paper

Affiliations: 1: Department of Medicine, College of Medicine, Blantyre, Malawi 2: Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine, Liverpool, UK 3: Department of Microbiology, College of Medicine, Blantyre, Malawi 4: Global Tuberculosis Programme, World Health Organization, Geneva, Switzerland

Publication date: December 1, 1998

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  • The International Journal of Tuberculosis and Lung Disease publishes articles on all aspects of lung health, including public health-related issues such as training programmes, cost-benefit analysis, legislation, epidemiology, intervention studies and health systems research. The IJTLD is dedicated to the continuing education of physicians and health personnel and the dissemination of information on tuberculosis and lung health world-wide.

    Certain IJTLD articles are selected for translation into French, Spanish, Chinese or Russian. They are available on the Union website

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