Undiagnosed TB in adults dying at home fromnatural causes in a high TB burden setting: A post-mortem study

T. Omar, E. Variava, E. Moroe, A. Billioux, R. E. Chaisson, L. Lebina, N. Martinson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

14 Scopus citations


BACKGROUND: A high proportion of deaths in Africa occur at home, where cause of death (CoD) is often unknown. We ascertained undiagnosed pulmonary tuberculosis (TB) by performing limited autopsies in adults dying at home in whom there was no apparent CoD. METHODS : Mortuaries in Matlosana, South Africa, identified potentially eligible adults with no antemortem diagnosis and/or no recent hospital admission. A questionnaire was administered to family members. Bilateral lung core biopsies and modified bronchoalveolar lavage (BAL) were performed. The biopsies were examined histologically and submitted with BAL aspirates for mycobacterial culture (MGIT™) and Xpert® MTB/RIF testing. Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) testing was not performed. RESULT S : Of 162 families approached, 28 refused and 29 of the deceased were on or had recently stopped antituberculosis treatment; 85 were included. All were Black and 53% were men. The median age was 57 years (interquartile range [IQR] 44-66) and median symptom duration (mainly cough) was 63 days (IQR 14-112). Laboratory evidence of TB was found in 27 (31.8%); 21 were Xpert-positive, 23 were MGIT-positive and 14 had histological evidence consistent with active TB. CONCLUS ION: In this high HIV prevalence setting, a quarter of the home deaths had evidence of undiagnosed, likely infectious TB, suggesting that TB-related mortality is under-ascertained and under-reported, with serious implications for TB control in high TB burden settings.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1320-1325
Number of pages6
JournalInternational Journal of Tuberculosis and Lung Disease
Issue number11
StatePublished - Nov 1 2015


  • Autopsy
  • Case ascertainment
  • HIV
  • Home deaths
  • Tuberculosis

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pulmonary and Respiratory Medicine
  • Infectious Diseases


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