Setting: The National TB Control Programme (NTP) of Malawi.
Objectives: To describe 1) the way in which a generic operational research project was developed and implemented by hospital TB officers (TBOs), 2) the outcome in terms of research work completed, data analysed and papers written up, and 3) the results of the research project.
Design: A descriptive study of assessing diagnostic processes in patients labelled as TB suspects who had been admitted to general hospital wards over 4 weeks.
Results: A total of 25 TBOs were trained in developing the research protocol: 19 performed satisfactory work, 17 attended an analysis/paper writing workshop and 11 submitted a research paper. The data of five papers were collated. Of 900 hospital admissions, 153 (17%) were TB suspects, of whom 37% were diagnosed with TB, 38% were discharged with another diagnosis and 25% died or absconded during investigations.
Conclusion: This first attempt at developing a research capacity in hospital TB officers in Malawi was partially successful, and may, through local dissemination and feedback, help to improve the speed of TB diagnosis in hospital in-patients.