Symptom screening is a recommended component of intensified case-finding (ICF) for pulmonary tuberculosis (TB) among HIV-infected individuals. Symptomatic individuals are further investigated to either exclude or diagnose pulmonary TB, thus reducing the number of individuals requiring costly laboratory investigation. Those with laboratory evaluations negative for pulmonary TB or who lack symptoms may be eligible for antiretroviral therapy (ART) and/or TB isoniazid preventive therapy (IPT). A four-part symptom screen has been recommended by the World Health Organization (WHO) for identifying TB suspects and those unlikely to have TB. A meta-analysis of studies among HIV-infected individuals calculated a sensitivity of 90.1% for the four-part symptoms screen - of any of cough, fever, night sweats, or weight loss - among patients in clinical care, making it an effective tool for identifying most patients with TB. An important population for intensified case-finding not included in that meta-analysis was HIV-infected pregnant women. We undertook a cross-sectional survey among HIV-infected pregnant women receiving prenatal care at community clinics in South Africa. We obtained a four-symptom review and sputum smear microscopy and mycobacterial culture on all participants. Among 1415 women, 226 (16%) had a positive symptom screen, and 35 (2.5%) were newly diagnosed with culture-positive TB. Twelve were on TB treatment at the time of screening, yielding 47 (3.3%) women with prevalent TB. Symptom screening among women without known TB had a sensitivity of 28% and specificity of 84%. The poor performance of symptom screening to identify women with TB suggests that other approaches may be needed for intensified case-finding to be effective for this population.
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