Facing the crisis: improving the diagnosis of tuberculosis in the HIV era

J Infect Dis. 2007 Aug 15;196 Suppl 1:S15-27. doi: 10.1086/518656.


Although the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) infection pandemic has had a catastrophic impact on tuberculosis (TB) control efforts, especially in sub-Saharan Africa, most of the fundamental concepts reflected in the directly observed treatment, short course (DOTS) strategy still hold true in the HIV era. What has changed, and dramatically, is the importance of speedy and accurate TB diagnosis and the difficulty of achieving this. The disproportionate amount of smear-negative disease in sub-Saharan Africa, which shoulders two-thirds of the global burden of HIV infection and acquired immunodeficiency syndrome, has greatly complicated TB case detection and disease control. Now, 15 years after TB rates began to soar in countries where HIV infection is prevalent, we have learned that the conventional approach -- passively waiting for patients with advanced symptomatic disease to make their way to microscopy centers for diagnosis -- has disastrous consequences. Without better diagnostic tools for TB and effective strategies for their implementation, transmission will not be interrupted, mortality will not be checked, and TB will not be controlled in areas where HIV infection is prevalent. Fortunately, a number of technical opportunities exist for the creation of improved diagnostic tests. Developing and exploiting such tests to support TB control in HIV-infected populations is an urgent priority. A substantial public sector effort is under way to work in partnership with the biotechnology industry to accelerate progress toward that goal. In this article, we will define the need for better TB tests and describe technologies being developed to meet that need.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Antibodies, Bacterial / isolation & purification
  • Antigens, Bacterial / isolation & purification
  • Antitubercular Agents / pharmacology
  • Culture Media
  • DNA, Bacterial / genetics
  • Drug Resistance, Bacterial
  • HIV Infections* / complications
  • HIV*
  • Humans
  • Microbial Sensitivity Tests
  • Microscopy
  • Mycobacterium tuberculosis / drug effects
  • Mycobacterium tuberculosis / genetics
  • Mycobacterium tuberculosis / immunology
  • Mycobacterium tuberculosis / isolation & purification*
  • Nucleic Acid Amplification Techniques
  • Serologic Tests
  • Tuberculosis / blood
  • Tuberculosis / diagnosis*
  • Tuberculosis / etiology
  • Tuberculosis / microbiology


  • Antibodies, Bacterial
  • Antigens, Bacterial
  • Antitubercular Agents
  • Culture Media
  • DNA, Bacterial