Background: Tuberculosis (TB) diagnosis in most resource-limited settings still depends on smear microscopy for identification of acid-fast bacilli (AFB). However, recently developed molecular diagnostics that test for the presence of Mycobacterium tuberculosis (Mtb) DNA have been shown to be superior for confirmation of TB diagnosis.
Methods: At regular clinical visits over a 12-month period, we collected sputa from HIV-infected patients presenting with signs or symptoms of TB at 2 Nigerian clinics. Sputa were stained for AFB and tested using the Genotype MTBDRplus to confirm the presence of Mtb. Other species were identified using 16S rRNA sequence.
Results: In 56% (233/415) of AFB-positive patients, Mtb was confirmed. The patients on antiretroviral therapy were less likely than those not on antiretroviral therapy to be infected with Mtb [odds ratio (OR) = 0.25, P = 0.003]. In a multivariate logistic regression model using clinical features and diagnostic results, abnormal respiratory findings on auscultation (OR = 3.28, P = 0.03) and a direct sputum smear grade >3/100 (OR = 6.4, 4.6, P < 0.02) were significant predictors of Mtb infection. Concentrated sputum smear was predictive of Mtb infection only at the highest grades (2+, 3+). Interestingly, among 65 samples that could not be confirmed for Mtb, 32 (49%) were found to contain other, possibly novel, actinomycetes, including atypical Mycobacteria, Rhodococcus spp, Nocardia spp, and Corynebacterium spp.
Conclusions: We conclude that concentrated sputum smears may misidentify other bacteria as Mtb in HIV-infected patients. The use of molecular diagnostics could reduce unnecessary or inappropriate treatment and improve identification of pathogens in resource-limited settings with high HIV burden.