Objective: To identify factors associated with negative direct sputum examination among African and Cambodian patients co-infected by Mycobacterium tuberculosis and HIV.
Design: Prospective multicenter study (ANRS1260) conducted in Cambodia, Senegal and Central African Republic.
Methods: Univariate and multivariate analyses (logistic regression) were used to identify clinical and radiological features associated with negative direct sputum examination in HIV-infected patients with positive M. tuberculosis culture on Lowenstein-Jensen medium.
Results: Between September 2002 and December 2005, 175 co-infected patients were hospitalized with at least one respiratory symptom and pulmonary radiographic anomaly. Acid-fast bacillus (AFB) examination was positive in sputum samples from 110 subjects (63%) and negative in 65 patients (37%). Most patients were at an advanced stage of HIV disease (92% at stage III or IV of the WHO classification) with a median CD4 cell count of 36/mm³. In this context, we found that sputum AFB negativity was more frequent in co-infected subjects with associated respiratory tract infections (OR = 2.8 [95%CI:1.1-7.0]), dyspnea (OR = 2.5 [95%CI:1.1-5.6]), and localized interstitial opacities (OR = 3.1 [95%CI:1.3-7.6]), but was less frequent with CD4 ≤ 50/mm³ (OR = 0.4 [95%CI:0.2-0.90), adenopathies (OR = 0.4 [95%CI:0.2-0.93]) and cavitation (OR = 0.1 [95%CI:0.03-0.6]).
Conclusions: One novel finding of this study is the association between concomitant respiratory tract infection and negative sputum AFB, particularly in Cambodia. This finding suggests that repeating AFB testing in AFB-negative patients should be conducted when broad spectrum antibiotic treatment does not lead to complete recovery from respiratory symptoms. In HIV-infected patients with a CD4 cell count below 50/mm3 without an identified cause of pneumonia, systematic AFB direct sputum examination is justified because of atypical clinical features (without cavitation) and high pulmonary mycobacterial burden.