Deep-Learning-Aided Detection of Mycobacteria in Pathology Specimens Increases the Sensitivity in Early Diagnosis of Pulmonary Tuberculosis Compared with Bacteriology Tests

Diagnostics (Basel). 2022 Mar 14;12(3):709. doi: 10.3390/diagnostics12030709.


The histopathological diagnosis of mycobacterial infection may be improved by a comprehensive analysis using artificial intelligence. Two autopsy cases of pulmonary tuberculosis, and forty biopsy cases of undetected acid-fast bacilli (AFB) were used to train AI (convolutional neural network), and construct an AI to support AFB detection. Forty-two patients underwent bronchoscopy, and were evaluated using AI-supported pathology to detect AFB. The AI-supported pathology diagnosis was compared with bacteriology diagnosis from bronchial lavage fluid and the final definitive diagnosis of mycobacteriosis. Among the 16 patients with mycobacteriosis, bacteriology was positive in 9 patients (56%). Two patients (13%) were positive for AFB without AI assistance, whereas AI-supported pathology identified eleven positive patients (69%). When limited to tuberculosis, AI-supported pathology had significantly higher sensitivity compared with bacteriology (86% vs. 29%, p = 0.046). Seven patients diagnosed with mycobacteriosis had no consolidation or cavitary shadows in computed tomography; the sensitivity of bacteriology and AI-supported pathology was 29% and 86%, respectively (p = 0.046). The specificity of AI-supported pathology was 100% in this study. AI-supported pathology may be more sensitive than bacteriological tests for detecting AFB in samples collected via bronchoscopy.

Keywords: artificial intelligence; bronchial lavage; bronchoscopy; mycobacteria; tuberculosis.