How to identify tuberculosis cases in a prevalence survey

Int J Tuberc Lung Dis. 2008 Nov;12(11):1255-60.


The identification of pulmonary tuberculosis (TB) cases in a prevalence survey is a challenge, as diagnostic methods are labour-intensive and large numbers of individuals need to be screened because the prevalence rate is low (almost never greater than 1,200 per 100,000 population). Three testing methods are used: questionnaires, chest radiography (CXR) and bacteriological tests, including sputum smear microscopy and culture. These methods can be applied in four strategies to identify cases. The most sensitive strategy is to apply all methods to each eligible individual. The next most sensitive option is to apply the questionnaire, CXR and sputum smear microscopy to each eligible individual and obtain sputum for culture from those individuals with symptoms, abnormalities on the CXR or a positive smear. If laboratory capacity is limited, screening using symptom enquiry and CXR can be used to select those individuals at highest risk of TB. These individuals are then requested to submit sputum for smear microscopy and culture. If neither CXR nor culture is available, sputum samples may be collected from all eligible individuals and examined by an enhanced microscopy method such as fluorescence microscopy. Case definitions are ideally based on the combined results of symptom enquiry, CXR and bacteriology.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Bacteriological Techniques
  • Health Surveys*
  • Humans
  • Mass Chest X-Ray
  • Mass Screening / methods*
  • Practice Guidelines as Topic
  • Prevalence
  • Research Design*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Tuberculosis / classification
  • Tuberculosis / epidemiology
  • Tuberculosis / prevention & control*