Accuracy of giant African pouched rats for diagnosing tuberculosis: comparison with culture and Xpert® MTB/RIF


Mulder C, Mgode GF, Ellis H, Valverde E, Beyene N, Cox C, Reid SE, Van't Hoog AH, Edwards TL.


Int J Tuberc Lung Dis. 2017 Nov 1;21(11):1127-1133. doi: 10.5588/ijtld.17.0139.

Enhanced tuberculosis (TB) case finding using detection rats in Tanzania.

To assess the diagnostic accuracy of detection rats compared with culture and Xpert® MTB/RIF, and to compare enhanced case-finding algorithms using rats in smear-negative presumptive TB patients.


A fully paired diagnostic accuracy study in which sputum of new adult presumptive TB patients in Tanzania was tested using smear microscopy, 11 detection rats, culture and Xpert.


Of 771 eligible participants, 345 (45%) were culture-positive for Mycobacterium tuberculosis, and 264 (34%) were human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) positive. The sensitivity of the detection rats was up to 75.1% (95%CI 70.1-79.5) when compared with culture, and up to 81.8% (95%CI 76.0-86.5) when compared with Xpert, which was statistically significantly higher than the sensitivity of smear microscopy. The corresponding specificity was 40.6% (95%CI 35.9-45.5) compared with culture. The accuracy of rat detection was independent of HIV status. Using rats for triage, followed by Xpert, would result in a statistically higher yield than rats followed by light-emitting diode fluorescence microscopy, whereas the number of false-positives would be significantly lower than when using Xpert alone.


Although detection rats did not meet the accuracy criteria as standalone diagnostic or triage testing for presumptive TB, they have additive value as a triage test for enhanced case finding among smear-negative TB patients if more advanced diagnostics are not available.

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