Setting: The applicability of serodiagnosis of tuberculosis using Mycobacterium tuberculosis-complex-specific antigens in a Tanzanian population with high prevalence of HIV.
Objective: This study was performed to evaluate the usefulness, sensitivity and specificity of serology using M. tuberculosis-specific antigens in the diagnosis of tuberculosis in patients with and without HIV co-infection.
Design: Patients with proven pulmonary and extrapulmonary tuberculosis at a major referral centre in Tanzania were enrolled in the study. The control group consisted of patients without a history of previous tuberculosis admitted to the trauma ward and of healthy volunteers. Sera were analysed by an enzyme linked immunoassay (ELISA) using two M. tuberculosis specific proteins as antigen: the 38 kDa protein [3T] and a 17 kDa protein. In addition was recorded presence or absence of BCG scar and tuberculin sensitivity and the sera were tested for HIV and analysed for beta-2-microglobulin content.
Result: Sensitivity and specificity were markedly reduced in tuberculosis patients with HIV co-infection compared to patients without this disease (73% and 70% versus 52% and 50% respectively).
Conclusion: Serology for diagnosis of tuberculosis is not feasible in an HIV endemic region.