The interpretation of nucleic acid amplification tests for tuberculosis: Do rapid tests change treatment decisions?

S. J. Conaty*, A. P. Claxton, D. A. Enoch, A. C. Hayward, M. C.I. Lipman, S. H. Gillespie

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

13 Citations (Scopus)


Objectives. To describe changes in treatment decisions after receipt of nucleic acid amplification (NAA) test for the diagnosis of M. tuberculosis. Methods. Retrospective notes review of treatment decisions in patients receiving a NAA test for suspected pulmonary or non-pulmonary tuberculosis at the Royal Free Hospital in London between March 2001 and February 2002. Notes were sought on a 50% random sample of patients with both smear and NAA negative specimens and all patients with other specimen results. Results. Two hundred and fifty patients were tested with NAA; clinical details were obtained on 138; 61 were ever treated. Seventeen (17/18) smear-negative patients were started on treatment after a positive NAA; none of six smear-negative patients treated prior to a negative NAA result had treatment stopped. Seventeen (17/21) smear-positive patients were treated prior to NAA result and all were NAA positive; treatment was delayed in four smear-positive patients until receipt of an NAA and one NAA-negative patient was not treated. Conclusions. In routine practice a positive test in an untreated smear-negative patient leads to decision to treat in almost all, but the proportion testing positive is low (8% or 17/219). In patients already on treatment negative tests did not lead to decisions to stop.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)187-192
Number of pages6
JournalJournal of Infection
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2005


  • Nucleic acid amplification techniques
  • Predictive value of tests
  • Sensitivity and specificity
  • Tuberculosis
  • Tuberculosis/diagnosis


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