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PLoS One. 2011 Jan 6;6(1):e15841. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0015841.

Culture conversion among HIV co-infected multidrug-resistant tuberculosis patients in Tugela Ferry, South Africa.

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Department of Medicine, Montefiore Medical Center and Albert Einstein College of Medicine, Bronx, New York, United States of America.



Little is known about the time to sputum culture conversion in MDR-TB patients co-infected with HIV, although such patients have, historically, had poor outcomes. We describe culture conversion rates among MDR-TB patients with and without HIV-co-infection in a TB-endemic, high-HIV prevalent, resource-limited setting.


Patients with culture-proven MDR-TB were treated with a standardized second-line regimen. Sputum cultures were taken monthly and conversion was defined as two negative cultures taken at least one month apart. Time-to-conversion was measured from the day of initiation of MDR-TB therapy. Subjects with HIV received antiretroviral therapy (ART) regardless of CD4 count.


Among 45 MDR-TB patients, 36 (80%) were HIV-co-infected. Overall, 40 (89%) of the 45 patients culture-converted within the first six months and there was no difference in the proportion who converted based on HIV status. Median time-to-conversion was 62 days (IQR 48-111). Among the five patients who did not culture convert, three died, one was transferred to another facility, and one refused further treatment before completing 6 months of therapy. Thus, no patients remained persistently culture-positive at 6 months of therapy.


With concurrent second-line TB and ART medications, MDR-TB/HIV co-infected patients can achieve culture conversion rates and times similar to those reported from HIV-negative patients worldwide. Future studies are needed to examine whether similar cure rates are achieved at the end of MDR-TB treatment and to determine the optimal use and timing of ART in the setting of MDR-TB treatment.

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