Trial-of-antibiotic algorithm for the diagnosis of tuberculosis in a district hospital in a developing country with high HIV prevalence

D. Wilkinson*, W. Newman, A. Reid, S. B. Squire, A. W. Sturm, C. F. Gilks

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

34 Citations (Scopus)


OBJECTIVE: To evaluate a diagnostic algorithm for pulmonary tuberculosis based on smear microscopy and objective response to trial of antibiotics. SETTING: Adult medical wards, Hlabisa Hospital, South Africa, 1996-1997. METHODS: Adults with chronic chest symptoms and abnormal chest X-ray had sputum examined for Ziehl-Neelsen stained acid-fast bacilli by light microscopy. Those with negative smears were treated with amoxycillin for 5 days and assessed. Those who had not improved were treated with erythromycin for 5 days and reassessed. Response was compared with mycobacterial culture. RESULTS: Of 280 suspects who completed the diagnostic pathway, 160 (57%) had a positive smear, 46 (17%) responded to amoxycillin, 34 (12%) responded to erythromycin and 40 (14%) were treated as smear-negative tuberculosis. The sensitivity (89%) and specificity (84%) of the full algorithm for culture- positive tuberculosis were high. However, 11 patients (positive predictive value [PPV] 95%) were incorrectly diagnosed with tuberculosis, and 24 cases of tuberculosis (negative predictive value [NPV] 70%) were not identified. NPV improved to 75% when anaemia was included as a predictor. Algorithm performance was independent of human immunodeficiency virus status. CONCLUSION: Sputum smear microscopy plus trial of antibiotic algorithm among a selected group of tuberculosis suspects may increase diagnostic accuracy in district hospitals in developing countries.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)513-518
Number of pages6
JournalInternational Journal of Tuberculosis and Lung Disease
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2000
Externally publishedYes


  • Diagnosis
  • HIV
  • Trial of antibiotics
  • Tuberculosis


Dive into the research topics of 'Trial-of-antibiotic algorithm for the diagnosis of tuberculosis in a district hospital in a developing country with high HIV prevalence'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this