Diagnostic Accuracy of Quantitative PCR (Xpert MTB/RIF) for Tuberculous Meningitis in a High Burden Setting: A Prospective Study

Background: Tuberculous meningitis (TBM) is difficult to diagnose promptly. The utility of the Xpert MTB/RIF test for the diagnosis of TBM remains unclear, and the effect of host- and sample-related factors on test performance is unknown. This study sought to evaluate the sensitivity and specificity of Xpert MTB/RIF for the diagnosis of TBM.

Methods and Findings: 235 South-African patients with a meningeal-like illness were categorised as having definite (culture or Amplicor PCR positive), probable (anti-TBM treatment initiated but microbiological confirmation lacking), or non-TBM. Xpert MTB/RIF accuracy was evaluated using 1 ml of uncentrifuged and, when available, 3 ml of centrifuged cerebrospinal fluid (CSF). To evaluate the incremental value of MTB/RIF over a clinically based diagnosis, test accuracy was compared to a clinical score (CS) derived using basic clinical and laboratory information. Of 204 evaluable patients (of whom 87% were HIV-infected), 59 had definite TBM, 64 probable TBM, and 81 non-TBM. Overall sensitivity and specificity (95% CI) were 62% (48%–75%) and 95% (87%–99%), respectively. The sensitivity of Xpert MTB/RIF was significantly better than that of smear microscopy (62% versus 12%; p = 0.001) and significantly better than that of the CS (62% versus 30%; p = 0.001; C statistic 85% [79%–92%]). Xpert MTB/RIF sensitivity was higher when centrifuged versus uncentrifuged samples were used (82% [62%–94%] versus 47% [31%–61%]; p = 0.004). The combination of CS and Xpert MTB/RIF (Xpert MTB/RIF performed if CS,8) performed as well as Xpert MTB/RIF alone but with a ,10% reduction in test usage. This overall pattern of results remained unchanged when the definite and probable TBM groups were combined. Xpert MTB/RIF was not useful in identifying TBM among HIV-uninfected individuals, although the sample was small. There was no evidence of PCR inhibition, and the limit of detection was ,80 colony forming units per millilitre. Study limitations included a predominantly HIV-infected cohort and the limited number of culture-positive CSF samples. 

Conclusions: Xpert MTB/RIF may be a good rule-in test for the diagnosis of TBM in HIV-infected individuals from a tuberculosis-endemic setting, particularly when a centrifuged CSF pellet is used. Further studies are required to confirm these findings in different settings.

Authors: 
Vinod B. Patel
Grant Theron
Laura Lenders
Brian Matinyena
Cathy Connolly
Ravesh Singh
Yacoob Coovadia
Thumbi Ndung’u
Keertan Dheda
Journal: 
PLOS Medicine
Volume: 
10
Issue: 
10
Publication Date: 
October, 2013
IBN number: 
e1001536