Original Research

Fluorescence microscopy for the diagnosis of smear-negative pulmonary tuberculosis in Ethiopia

Gemeda Abebe, Dossegnaw Aragaw, Mulualem Tadesse
African Journal of Laboratory Medicine | Vol 9, No 1 | a810 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/ajlm.v9i1.810 | © 2020 Gemeda Abebe, Mulualem Tadesse, Dossegnaw Aragaw | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 04 April 2018 | Published: 28 September 2020

About the author(s)

Gemeda Abebe, School of Medical Laboratory Sciences, Faculty of Health Sciences, Jimma University, Jimma, Ethiopia; and, Mycobacteriology Research Center, Jimma University, Jimma, Ethiopia
Dossegnaw Aragaw, School of Medical Laboratory Sciences, Faculty of Health Sciences, Jimma University, Jimma, Ethiopia
Mulualem Tadesse, School of Medical Laboratory Sciences, Faculty of Health Sciences, Jimma University, Jimma, Ethiopia; and, Mycobacteriology Research Center, Jimma University, Jimma, Ethiopia


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Abstract

Background: Despite its low sensitivity, microscopy remains the main method for the diagnosis of pulmonary tuberculosis in most laboratories in Ethiopia. Few studies have evaluated the performance of light-emitting diode fluorescent microscopy (LED-FM) in bleach-concentrated smear-negative sputum specimens.

Objective: This study aimed to evaluate the diagnostic performance of LED-FM for smear-negative pulmonary tuberculosis in Ethiopia.

Methods: A total of 194 adult patients with a cough lasting for more than two weeks, and who had three direct smear-negative sputum tests for Mycobacterium tuberculosis by Ziehl-Neelsen light microscopy, were included. All direct Ziehl-Neelsen-stained smear-negative sputum samples were cultured and were also visualised by LED-FM. Smears for LED-FM were performed from bleach-concentrated sputum sediment. The diagnostic performance of the LED-FM was compared to the culture method (the reference standard).

Results: Of the 194 smear-negative sputum specimens analysed, 28 (14.4%) were culture-positive and 21 (10.8%) were LED-FM-positive for M. tuberculosis. However, only 11 of the 21 (52.4%) LED-FM-positive patients had a confirmed tuberculosis diagnosis by culture. Light-emitting diode fluorescence microscopy (FM) had a sensitivity of 39.3% (95% confidence interval: 21.2–57.4) and specificity of 93.9% (95% confidence interval: 90.4–97.6). Ten LED-FM-positive specimens were culture-negative, and all of these specimens had scanty grading (1–19 bacilli per 40 fields on LED-FM).

Conclusion: This study showed that implementation of LED-FM on bleach pre-treated and concentrated sputum can significantly improve the diagnosis of smear-negative pulmonary tuberculosis. However, all scanty grade, positive smears by LED-FM need to be confirmed by reference culture method.


Keywords

sputum smear-negative; light-emitting diode fluorescent microscopy; bleach pretreatment; Ethiopia; health

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