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Nasopharyngeal aspiration for diagnosis of pulmonary tuberculosis
  1. Stephen Owens (sowens3{at}
  1. Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine, United Kingdom
    1. Isam E Abdel-Rahman (isamsaboni{at}
    1. Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine, United Kingdom
      1. Stephen Balyejusa (pmusoke{at}
      1. Makerere University, Kampala, Uganda
        1. Phillipa Musoke (pmusoke{at}
        1. Makerere University, Kampala, Uganda
          1. Richard Cooke (richard.cooke{at}
          1. Medical Microbiology, University Hospital Aintree, United Kingdom
            1. Christopher M Parry (cmparry{at}
            1. Medical Microbiology, University of Liverpool, United Kingdom
              1. J B S Coulter (coulters{at}
              1. Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine, United Kingdom


                Background: Confirmation of pulmonary tuberculosis in young children is difficult as they seldom expectorate sputum.

                Aim: To compare sputa obtained by nasopharyngeal aspiration and by sputum induction for staining and culture of Mycobacterium tuberculosis.

                Patients and methods: Patients from Mulago Hospital, Kampala with symptoms suggestive of pulmonary tuberculosis, were considered for inclusion in the study. Those with a positive tuberculin test and/or a chest radiograph compatible with tuberculosis were recruited. Infection with human immunodeficiency virus was confirmed by duplicate enzyme-labelled immunosorbent assay or in children <15 months, by polymerase chain reaction. Direct polymerase chain reaction was undertaken on 82 nasopharyngeal aspirates.

                Results: Of 438 patients referred, 94 were recruited over a period of 5 months. Median (range) age was 48 (4-144) months. Of 63 patients tested 69.8% were infected with human immunodeficiency virus. Paired and uncontaminated culture results were available for 88 patients and smear results for 94 patients. Nasopharyngeal aspirates were smear-positive in 8.5% and culture-positive in 23.9%. Induced sputa were smear- positive in 9.6% and culture positive in 21.6%. Overall 10.6% were smear-positive, 25.5% were culture-positive and 26.6% had smear and/or culture confirmed tuberculosis. Direct polymerase chain reaction on nasopharyngeal aspirates had a sensitivity of 62% and specificity of 98% for confirmation of culture-positive tuberculosis.

                Conclusions: Nasopharyngeal aspiration is a useful, safe and low-technology method for confirmation of pulmonary tuberculosis and like sputum induction can be undertaken in outpatient clinics.

                • diagnosis
                • nasopharyngeal aspirates
                • sputum induction
                • tuberculosis

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