Background: The human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) alters the presentation of pulmonary tuberculosis (PTB), but it remains unclear whether alterations occur at a CD4 cell threshold or throughout HIV infection.
Objective: To better understand the relationship between CD4 count and clinical and radiographic presentation of PTB.
Setting and design: Initial presentations of culture-confirmed PTB patients evaluated at a Ugandan national TB referral center and an affiliated research unit were compared by HIV status and across 11 CD4 cell count strata: 0-50 to >500 cells/μl.
Results: A total of 873 HIV-infected PTB cases were identified. Among HIV-infected PTB cases with CD4 < 50, 21% had a normal chest X-ray (CXR) vs. 2% with CD4 > 500, with a continuous trend across CD4 strata (test for trend, P < 0.001). All radiographic manifestations of PTB displayed significant trends across CD4 strata. HIV-infected vs. non-HIV-infected patients had no significant difference in CXR findings of miliary patterns or pleural effusion at CD4 > 100, normal CXR or fibrosis at CD4 > 150, adenopathy at CD4 > 250, and cavitation or upper lung disease at CD4 > 300. Twenty-three per cent of co-infected cases with CD4 < 50 and 1% with CD4 > 500 had negative acid-fast bacilli (AFB) smears, with a significant trend between (P < 0.001).
Conclusion: Variations in CXR appearance and AFB smear correlate with CD4 decline in significant, continuous trends.