BACKGROUND: Since 2011, WHO has recommended that HIV-positive inpatients be routinely screened for tuberculosis with the WHO four-symptom screen (W4SS) and, if screened positive, receive a molecular WHO-recommended rapid diagnostic test (eg, Xpert MTB/RIF [Xpert] assay). To inform updated WHO tuberculosis screening guidelines, we conducted a systematic review and individual participant data meta-analysis to assess the performance of W4SS and alternative screening tests to guide Xpert testing and compare the diagnostic accuracy of the WHO Xpert algorithm (ie, W4SS followed by Xpert) with Xpert for all HIV-positive inpatients.
METHODS: We searched MEDLINE, Embase, and Cochrane Library from Jan 1, 2011, to March 1, 2020, for studies of adult and adolescent HIV-positive inpatients enrolled regardless of tuberculosis signs and symptoms. The separate reference standards were culture and Xpert. Xpert was selected since it is most likely to be the confirmatory test used in practice. We assessed the proportion of inpatients eligible for Xpert testing using the WHO algorithm; assessed the accuracy of W4SS and alternative screening tests or strategies to guide diagnostic testing; and compared the accuracy of the WHO Xpert algorithm (W4SS followed by Xpert) with Xpert for all. We obtained pooled proportion estimates with a random-effects model, assessed diagnostic accuracy by fitting random-effects bivariate models, and assessed diagnostic yield descriptively. This systematic review has been registered on PROSPERO (CRD42020155895).
FINDINGS: Of 6162 potentially eligible publications, six were eligible and we obtained data for all of the six publications (n=3660 participants). The pooled proportion of inpatients eligible for an Xpert was 90% (95% CI 89-91; n=3658). Among screening tests to guide diagnostic testing, W4SS and C-reactive protein (≥5 mg/L) had highest sensitivities (≥96%) but low specificities (≤12%); cough (≥2 weeks), haemoglobin concentration (
INTERPRETATION: The W4SS and other potential screening tests to guide Xpert testing have suboptimal accuracy in HIV-positive inpatients. On the basis of these findings, WHO now strongly recommends molecular rapid diagnostic testing in all medical HIV-positive inpatients in settings where tuberculosis prevalence is higher than 10%.
FUNDING: World Health Organization.
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