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, 55 (11), 955-7

The Ligase Chain Reaction as a Primary Screening Tool for the Detection of Culture Positive Tuberculosis


The Ligase Chain Reaction as a Primary Screening Tool for the Detection of Culture Positive Tuberculosis

T M O'Connor et al. Thorax.


Background: The ligase chain reaction Mycobacterium tuberculosis assay uses ligase chain reaction technology to detect tuberculous DNA sequences in clinical specimens. A study was undertaken to determine its sensitivity and specificity as a primary screening tool for the detection of culture positive tuberculosis.

Methods: The study was conducted on 2420 clinical specimens (sputum, bronchoalveolar lavage fluid, pleural fluid, urine) submitted for primary screening for Mycobacterium tuberculosis to a regional medical microbiology laboratory. Specimens were tested in parallel with smear, ligase chain reaction, and culture.

Results: Thirty nine patients had specimens testing positive by the ligase chain reaction assay. Thirty two patients had newly diagnosed tuberculosis, one had a tuberculosis relapse, three had tuberculosis (on antituberculous therapy when tested), and three had healed tuberculosis. In the newly diagnosed group specimens were smear positive in 21 cases (66%), ligase chain reaction positive in 30 cases (94%), and culture positive in 32 cases (100%). Using a positive culture to diagnose active tuberculosis, the ligase chain reaction assay had a sensitivity of 93.9%, a specificity of 99.8%, a positive predictive value of 83.8%, and a negative predictive value of 99.9%.

Conclusions: This study is the largest clinical trial to date to report the efficacy of the ligase chain reaction as a primary screening tool to detect Mycobacterium tuberculosis infection. The authors conclude that ligase chain reaction is a useful primary screening test for tuberculosis, offering speed and discrimination in the early stages of diagnosis and complementing traditional smear and culture techniques.

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