What if they don't have tuberculosis? the consequences and trade-offs involved in false-positive diagnoses of tuberculosis

Rein M.G.J. Houben, Marek Lalli, Katharina Kranzer, Nick A. Menzies, Samuel G. Schumacher, David W. Dowdy

Research output: Contribution to journalReview article

Abstract

To find the millions of missed tuberculosis (TB) cases, national TB programs are under pressure to expand TB disease screening and to target populations with lower disease prevalence. Together with imperfect performance and application of existing diagnostic tools, including empirical diagnosis, broader screening risks placing individuals without TB on prolonged treatment. These false-positive diagnoses have profound consequences for TB patients and prevention efforts, yet are usually overlooked in policy decision making. In this article we describe the pathways to a false-positive TB diagnosis, including trade-offs involved in the development and application of diagnostic algorithms. We then consider the wide range of potential consequences for individuals, households, health systems, and reliability of surveillance data. Finally, we suggest practical steps that the TB community can take to reduce the frequency and potential harms of false-positive TB diagnosis and to more explicitly assess the trade-offs involved in the screening and diagnostic process.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)150-156
Number of pages7
JournalClinical Infectious Diseases
Volume68
Issue number1
DOIs
StatePublished - Jan 1 2019

Keywords

  • false-positive diagnosis
  • trade-off
  • tuberculosis

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Microbiology (medical)
  • Infectious Diseases

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