Background: A high burden of tuberculosis (TB) occurs in sub-Saharan African countries and many cases of active TB and drug-resistant TB remain undiagnosed. Tertiary care hospitals provide an opportunity to study TB co-morbidity with non-communicable and other communicable diseases (NCDs/CDs). We evaluated the burden of undiagnosed pulmonary TB and multi-drug resistant TB in adult inpatients, regardless of their primary admission diagnosis, in a tertiary referral centre.
Methodology/principal findings: In this prospective study, newly admitted adult inpatients able to produce sputum at the University Teaching Hospital, Lusaka, Zambia, were screened for pulmonary TB using fluorescent smear microscopy and automated liquid culture. The burden of pulmonary TB, unsuspected TB, TB co-morbidity with NCDs and CDs was determined. Sputum was analysed from 900 inpatients (70.6% HIV infected) 277 (30.8%) non-TB suspects, 286 (31.8%) TB suspects and 337 (37.4%) were already receiving TB treatment. 202/900 (22.4%) of patients had culture confirmed TB. TB co-morbidity was detected in 20/275 (7.3%) NCD patients, significantly associated with diabetes (P = 0.006, OR 6.571, 95%CI: 1.706-25.3). 27/202 (13.4%) TB cases were unsuspected. There were 18 confirmed cases of MDR-TB, 5 of which were unsuspected.
Conclusions/significance: A large burden of unsuspected pulmonary TB co-morbidity exists in inpatients with NCDs and other CDs. Pro-active sputum screening of all inpatients in tertiary referral centres in high TB endemic countries is recommended. The scale of the problem of undiagnosed MDR-TB in inpatients requires further study.