Treatment initiation among persons diagnosed with drug resistant tuberculosis in Johannesburg, South Africa
Background: In South Africa, roughly half of the drug-resistant TB cases diagnosed are reported to have been started on treatment. We determined the proportion of persons diagnosed with rifampicin resistant (RR-) TB who initiated treatment in Johannesburg after the introduction of decentralized RR-TB care in 2011.
Methods: We retrospectively matched adult patients diagnosed with laboratory-confirmed RR-TB in Johannesburg from 07/2011-06/2012 with records of patients initiating RR-TB treatment at one of the city’s four public sector treatment sites (one centralized, three decentralized). Patients were followed from date of diagnosis until the earliest of RR-TB treatment initiation, death, or 6 months’ follow-up. We report diagnostic methods and outcomes, proportions initiating treatment, and median time from diagnosis to treatment initiation.
Results: 594 patients were enrolled (median age 34 (IQR 29–42), 287 (48.3%) female). Diagnosis was by GenoType MTBDRplus (Hain-Life-Science) line probe assay (LPA) (281, 47.3%), Xpert MTB/RIF (Cepheid) (258, 43.4%), or phenotypic drug susceptibility testing (DST) (30, 5.1%) with 25 (4.2%) missing a diagnosis method. 320 patients (53.8%) had multi-drug resistant TB, 158 (26.6%) rifampicin resistant TB by Xpert MTB/RIF, 102 (17.2%) rifampicin mono-resistance, and 14 (2.4%) extensively drug-resistant TB. 256/594 (43.0%) patients initiated treatment, representing 70.7% of those who were referred for treatment (362/594). 338/594 patients (57.0%) did not initiate treatment, including 104 (17.5%) who died before treatment was started. The median time from sputum collection to treatment initiation was 33 days (IQR 12–52).
Conclusion: Despite decentralized RR-TB treatment, fewer than half the patients diagnosed in Johannesburg initiated appropriate treatment. Offering treatment at decentralized sites alone is not sufficient; improvements in linking patients diagnosed with RR-TB to effective treatment is essential.