Empiric tuberculosis treatment in South African primary health care facilities - for whom, where, when and why: Implications for the development of tuberculosis diagnostic tests.


McCarthy, K; Fielding, K; Churchyard, GJ; Grant, AD; (2018) Empiric tuberculosis treatment in South African primary health care facilities - for whom, where, when and why: Implications for the development of tuberculosis diagnostic tests. PloS one, 13 (1). e0191608. ISSN 1932-6203 DOI: https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0191608

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Abstract

The extent and circumstances under which empiric tuberculosis (TB) treatment (treatment without microbiological confirmation at treatment initiation) is administered in primary health care settings in South Africa are not well described. We used data from a pragmatic evaluation of Xpert MTB/RIF in which persons undergoing TB investigations by PHC nurses were followed for six months. Following Xpert or smear-microscopy at enrolment, investigations for tuberculosis were undertaken at the discretion of health care workers. We identified persons whose TB treatment was initiated empirically (no microbiological confirmation at time of treatment initiation at a primary health care facility) and describe pathways to treatment initiation. Of 4665 evaluable participants, 541 persons were initiated on treatment of whom 167 (31%) had negative sputum tests at enrolment. Amongst these 167, the median number of participant visits to health care providers prior to treatment initiation was 3 (interquartile range [IQR] 2-4). Chest radiography, sputum culture or hospital referral was done in 106/167 (63%). Reasons for TB treatment start were: 1) empiric (n = 82, 49%); 2) a positive laboratory test (n = 49, 29%); 3) referral and treatment start at a higher level of care (n = 28, 17%); and 4) indeterminable (n = 8, 5%). Empiric treatment accounted for 15% (82/541) of all TB treatment initiations and 1.7% (82/4665) of all persons undergoing TB investigations. Chest radiography findings compatible with TB (63/82 [77%]) were the basis for treatment initiation amongst the majority of empirically treated participants. Microbiological confirmation of TB was subsequently obtained for 11/82 (13%) empirically-treated participants. Median time to empiric treatment start was 3.9 weeks (IQR 1.4-11 weeks) after enrolment. Uncommon prescription of empiric TB treatment with reliance on chest radiography in a nurse-managed programme underscores the need for highly sensitive TB diagnostics suitable for point-of-care, and strong health systems to support TB diagnosis in this setting.

Item Type: Article
Faculty and Department: Faculty of Infectious and Tropical Diseases > Dept of Clinical Research
Faculty of Epidemiology and Population Health > Dept of Infectious Disease Epidemiology
Research Centre: TB Centre
PubMed ID: 29364960
URI: http://researchonline.lshtm.ac.uk/id/eprint/4646212

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