Verbal autopsy-assigned causes of death among adults being investigated for TB in South Africa

Trans R Soc Trop Med Hyg. 2016 Sep;110(9):510-516. doi: 10.1093/trstmh/trw058. Epub 2016 Oct 7.


Background: Adults being investigated for TB in South Africa experience high mortality, yet causes of death (CoD) are not well defined. We determined CoD in this population using verbal autopsy (VA), and compared HIV- and TB-associated CoD using physician-certified verbal autopsy (PCVA) and InterVA-4 software.

Methods: All contactable consenting caregivers of participants who died during a trial comparing Xpert MTB/RIF to smear microscopy were interviewed using the WHO VA tool. CoD were assigned using PCVA and InterVA-4. Kappa statistic (K) and concordance correlation coefficient (CCC) were calculated for comparison.

Results: Among 231 deaths, relatives of 137 deceased were interviewed. Of the 137 deceased 76 (55.4%) were males, median age 41 years (IQR 33-50). PCVA assigned 70 (51.1%) TB immediate CoD (44 [62.8%] pulmonary TB; 26 [37.1%] extra-pulmonary TB); 21 (15.3%) HIV/AIDS-related; and 46 (33.5%) other CoD. InterVA-4 assigned 48 (35.0%) TB deaths; 49 (35.7%) HIV/AIDS-related deaths; and 40 (29.1%) other CoD. Agreement between PCVA and InterVA-4 CoD was slight at individual level (K=0.20; 95% CI 0.10-0.30) and poor at population level (CCC 0.67; 95% CI 0.38-0.99).

Conclusions: TB and HIV are leading CoD among adults being investigated for TB. PCVA and InterVA agreement at individual level was slight and poor at population level. VA methodology needs further development where TB and HIV are common.

Keywords: Causes of death; InterVA; Physician assigned verbal autopsy; Tuberculosis; Verbal autopsy.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Autopsy
  • Bacteriological Techniques* / methods
  • Cause of Death* / trends
  • Cluster Analysis
  • Coinfection / mortality*
  • Coinfection / pathology
  • Female
  • HIV Infections* / mortality
  • HIV Infections* / pathology
  • Health Services Accessibility
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Population Surveillance
  • Predictive Value of Tests
  • Reproducibility of Results
  • Sensitivity and Specificity
  • Sex Distribution
  • Software
  • South Africa / epidemiology
  • Tuberculosis, Pulmonary* / mortality
  • Tuberculosis, Pulmonary* / pathology