Fluorescence microscopy (FM) has not been implemented widely in TB endemic settings and little evaluation has been done in HIV-infected patients. We evaluated diagnostic performance, time and costs of FM with light-emitting diodes technology (LED-FM), compared with conventional (Zieh-Neelsen) microscopy in a hospital in Indonesia which acts as referral centre for HIV-infected patients.
We included pulmonary tuberculosis suspects from the outpatient and HIV clinic. Direct and concentrated sputum smears were examined using LED-FM and ZN microscopy by two technicians who were blinded for the HIV-status and the result of the comparative test. Mean reading time per slide was recorded and cost of each slide was calculated. Mycobacteria culture served as the reference standard.
Among 404 tuberculosis suspects from the outpatient clinic and 256 from the HIV clinic, mycobacteria culture was positive in 12.6% and 27%, respectively. The optimal sensitivity of LED-FM was achieved by using a threshold of ≥2 AFB/length. LED-FM had a higher sensitivity (75.5% vs. 54.9%, P<0.01) but lower specificity (90.0% vs 96.6%, P<0.01) compared to ZN microscopy. HIV was associated with a lower sensitivity but similar specificity. The average reading time using LED-FM was significantly shorter (2.23±0.78 vs 5.82±1.60 minutes, P<0.01), while costs per slide were similar.
High sensitivity of LED-FM combined with shorter reading time of sputum smear slides make this method a potential alternative to ZN microscopy. Additional data on specificity are needed for effective implementation of this technique in high burden TB laboratories.