Diagnostic Performance of Smear Microscopy and Incremental Yield of Xpert in Detection of Pulmonary Tuberculosis in Rwanda

Diagnostic Performance of Smear Microscopy and Incremental Yield of Xpert in Detection of Pulmonary Tuberculosis in Rwanda

By: Jean Claude Semuto Ngabonziza, Willy Ssengooba, Florence Mutua, Gabriela Torrea, Augustin Dushime, Michel Gasana, Emmanuel Andre, Schifra Uwamungu, Alaine Umubyeyi Nyaruhirira, Dufton Mwaengo, Claude Mambo Muvunyi
Publication: BMC Infectious DiseasesNov. 2016; 16: 660. DOI: 10.1186/s12879-016-2009-x.



Tuberculosis control program of Rwanda is currently phasing in light emitting diode-fluorescent microscopy (LED-FM) as an alternative to Ziehl-Neelsen (ZN) smear microscopy. This, alongside the newly introduced Xpert (Cepheid, Sunnyvale, CA, USA) is expected to improve diagnosis of tuberculosis and detection of rifampicin resistance in patients at health facilities. We assessed the accuracy of smear microscopy and the incremental sensitivity of Xpert at tuberculosis laboratories in Rwanda.


This was a cross-sectional study involving four laboratories performing ZN and four laboratories performing LED-FM microscopy. The laboratories include four intermediate (ILs) and four peripheral (PLs) laboratories. After smear microscopy, the left-over of samples, of a single early-morning sputum from 648 participants, were tested using Xpert and mycobacterial culture as a reference standard. Sensitivity of each test was compared and the incremental sensitivity of Xpert after a negative smear was assessed.


A total of 96 presumptive pulmonary tuberculosis participants were culture positive for M. tuberculosis. The overall sensitivity in PL of ZN was 55.1 % (40.2–69.3 %), LED-FM was 37 % (19.4–57.6 %) and Xpert was 77.6 % (66.6–86.4 %) whereas in ILs the same value for ZN was 58.3 % (27.7–84.8 %), LED-FM was 62.5 % (24.5–91.5 %) and Xpert was 90 (68.3–98.8 %). The sensitivity for all tests was significantly higher among HIV-negative individuals (all test p <0.05). The overall incremental sensitivity of Xpert over smear microscopy was 32.3 %; p < 0.0001. The incremental sensitivity of Xpert was statistically significant for both smear methods at PL (32.9 %; p = 0.001) but not at the ILs (30 %; p = 0.125) for both smear methods.


Our study findings of the early implementation of the LED-FM did not reveal significant increment in sensitivity compared to the method being phased out (ZN). This study showed a significant incremental sensitivity for Xpert from both smear methods at peripheral centers where majority of TB patients are diagnosed. Overall our findings support the recommendation for Xpert as an initial diagnostic test in adults and children presumed to have TB.