Screening pulmonary tuberculosis suspects in Malawi: Testing different strategies

A. D. Harries*, A. Kamenya, V. R. Subramanyam, D. Maher, S. B. Squire, J. J. Wirima, D. S. Nyangulu, P. Nunn

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

42 Citations (Scopus)


Alternative strategies for screening tuberculosis (TB) suspects are needed in sub-saharan Africa. Ambulatory adult TB suspects who were seen in the chronic cough room of Queen Elizabeth Central Hospital, Blantyre, Malawi, were assessed with respect to appropriateness of referral. Appropriate referrals (patients with cough 3 weeks or longer, weight loss and no antibiotic response) were screened by 3 sputum specimens for microscopy and culture of Mycobacterium tuberculosis and chest radiography (CXR). Hypothetical strategy A (screening by sputum smear examination followed by CXR in patients with negative sputum smears) was compared with strategy B (screening by CXR followed by sputum smear examination in patients with a CXR consistent with TB) in terms of diagnostic efficacy and cost. Of 1127 patients referred to the cough room, 402 (38%) were appropriate TB suspect referrals. Of these, 111 (28%) were sputum smear-positive, 213 (53%) were culture-positive, and 221 (55%) had smear and/or culture-positive evidence of TB. Routine CXR was consistent with pulmonary (P) TB in 230 patients (57%). With strategy A, 243 (60%) patients were diagnosed as PTB, but 40 (25%) of those not diagnosed as PTB had positive mycobacterial cultures. With strategy B, 230 patients (57%) were diagnosed as PTB, but 53 (31%) of those not diagnosed as PTB had positive mycobacterial cultures, including 13 with smear-positive sputum. The cost per diagnosed case of PTB was US$ 4.63 with strategy A and US$ 5.44 with strategy B. Screening patients with good criteria of TB has high diagnostic sensitivity, but screening by CXR is less effective and more costly than screening by sputum smear microscopy.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)416-419
Number of pages4
JournalTransactions of the Royal Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 1997
Externally publishedYes


  • Mycobacterium tuberculosis
  • Screening strategies
  • Tuberculosis


Dive into the research topics of 'Screening pulmonary tuberculosis suspects in Malawi: Testing different strategies'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this