What causes symptoms suggestive of tuberculosis in HIV-positive people with negative initial investigations?
OBJECTIVE: To identify the causes of symptoms suggestive of tuberculosis (TB) among people living with the human immunodeficiency virus (PLHIV) in South Africa.
METHODS: A consecutive sample of HIV clinic attendees with symptoms suggestive of TB (>/=1 of cough, weight loss, fever or night sweats) at enrolment and at 3 months, and negative initial TB investigations, were systematically evaluated with standard protocols and diagnoses assigned using standard criteria. TB was 'confirmed' if Mycobacterium tuberculosis was identified within 6 months of enrolment, and 'clinical' if treatment started without microbiological confirmation.
RESULTS: Among 103 participants, 50/103 were pre-antiretroviral therapy (ART) and 53/103 were on ART; respectively 68% vs. 79% were female; the median age was 35 vs. 45 years; the median CD4 count was 311 vs. 508 cells/mm(3). Seventy-two (70%) had >/=5% measured weight loss and 50 (49%) had cough. The most common final diagnoses were weight loss due to severe food insecurity (n = 20, 19%), TB (n = 14, 14%: confirmed n = 7; clinical n = 7), other respiratory tract infection (n = 14, 14%) and post-TB lung disease (n = 9, 9%). The basis for TB diagnosis was imaging (n = 7), bacteriological confirmation from sputum (n = 4), histology, lumbar puncture and other (n = 1 each).
CONCLUSION: PLHIV with persistent TB symptoms require further evaluation for TB using all available modalities, and for food insecurity in those with weight loss.