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Open Access ‘Cough officer’ nurses in a general medical clinic successfully detect drug-susceptible and -resistant tuberculosis

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SETTING: Intensive case finding (ICF) for tuberculosis (TB) is recommended by the World Health Organization among known human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) patients. However, ICF may also be appropriate in generalized patient populations.

OBJECTIVE: To evaluate the yield of ICF in a general medical clinic in a high HIV prevalence setting.

METHODS: A nurse designated as a ‘cough officer’ identified clinic attendees with cough of >2 weeks and collected sputum for evaluation at the hospital and provincial referral laboratories. We retrospectively evaluated the number and proportion of patients with microbiologically confirmed TB identified in 2007–2008.

RESULTS: Among 56 207 clinic attendees, 1442 (2.6%) TB suspects were identified and 122 (8.5%) were sputum Ziehl-Neelsen (ZN) positive. Of 389 available results, 72 (18.5%) were auramine-positive and 99 (25.4%) were culture-positive; multidrug-resistant and extensively drug-resistant TB were identified in 16 (16.2%). The number needed to screen was 11.8 patients to identify one ZN-positive case and 3.9 to identify one culture-positive case.

CONCLUSIONS: A nurse-facilitated cough officer program successfully identified TB suspects and drug-susceptible and drug-resistant TB. Culture was more sensitive for TB screening and critical for identifying drug resistance. ICF is operationally feasible, and should be expanded to general medical clinics in high HIV and TB prevalence, resource-limited settings.
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Keywords: HIV; South Africa; intensive case finding; rural

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: Department of Medicine, Section of Infectious Diseases, AIDS Program, Yale University School of Medicine, New Haven, Connecticut, USA 2: Philanjalo Care Centre, Tugela Ferry, South Africa 3: Church of Scotland Hospital, Tugela Ferry, South Africa

Publication date: March 21, 2013

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  • Public Health Action (PHA), The Union's quarterly open access on-line journal, provides a platform for its mission 'Health solutions for the poor'. PHA addresses the need for show-casing operational research that addresses issues in health systems and services. It publishes high-quality scientific research that provides new knowledge to improve access, equity, quality and efficiency of health systems and services.

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