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Int J Tuberc Lung Dis. 2002 Jul;6(7):592-8.

Useful clues to the presence of smear-negative pulmonary tuberculosis in a West African city.

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National Tuberculosis Program, Conakry, Guinea.



Tuberculosis suspects with negative sputum smears for acid-fast bacilli (AFB) may have either pulmonary tuberculosis (PTB) or some other pulmonary disease (non-PTB). The aim of this study was to improve the differentiation between PTB and non-PTB.


We enrolled 396 tuberculosis suspects 15 years of age or older who had cough of 21 days or longer and three negative AFB smears. Non-PTB was diagnosed by clinical and radiographic responses to amoxicillin; smear-negative PTB was diagnosed by positive culture for Mycobacterium tuberculosis or response to antituberculosis chemotherapy.


Multivariate analysis, without X-ray variables, of 79 patients with a final diagnosis of non-PTB and 110 patients with smear-negative PTB indicated that age less than 37 years, family contact with TB, never having been married, loss of weight, lack of expectoration, human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) seropositivity, and tuberculin reactivity were significantly associated with PTB. When the initial X-ray findings were included, age younger than 37 years, lack of expectoration, HIV seropositivity, and tuberculin reactivity remained in the model, and cavitation and patchy densities were significantly associated.


The response to 10 days of amoxicillin and certain demographic, clinical and radiographic characteristics are useful in separating non-PTB from PTB in tuberculosis suspects with negative AFB smears.

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