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J Clin Microbiol. 2019 May 24;57(6). pii: e01113-18. doi: 10.1128/JCM.01113-18. Print 2019 Jun.

A Systematic Review and Meta-analysis of the Diagnostic Accuracy of Nucleic Acid Amplification Tests for Tuberculous Meningitis.

Author information

Student Research Committee, Department of Microbiology, School of Medicine, Shahid Beheshti University of Medical Sciences, Tehran, Iran
Department of Microbiology, School of Medicine, Shahid Beheshti University of Medical Sciences, Tehran, Iran.
Centre for Clinical Microbiology, UCL Royal Free Hospital, London, United Kingdom.
Department of Epidemiology, School of Medicine, Shahid Beheshti University of Medical Sciences, Tehran, Iran.
Division of Infectious Diseases, Department of Medicine, University of Kansas, Kansas City, Kansas, USA.
Contributed equally


The diagnosis of tuberculous meningitis (TBM) is difficult and poses a significant challenge to physicians worldwide. Recently, nucleic acid amplification (NAA) tests have shown promise for the diagnosis of TBM, although their performance has been variable. We undertook a systematic review and meta-analysis to evaluate the diagnostic accuracy of NAA tests with cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) samples against that of culture as the reference standard or a combined reference standard (CRS) for TBM. We searched the Embase, PubMed, Web of Science, and Cochrane Library databases for the relevant records. The QUADAS-2 tool was used to assess the quality of the studies. Diagnostic accuracy measures (i.e., sensitivity and specificity) were pooled with a random-effects model. All statistical analyses were performed with STATA (version 14 IC; Stata Corporation, College Station, TX, USA), Meta-DiSc (version 1.4 for Windows; Cochrane Colloquium, Barcelona, Spain), and RevMan (version 5.3; The Nordic Cochrane Centre, the Cochrane Collaboration, Copenhagen, Denmark) software. Sixty-three studies comprising 1,381 cases of confirmed TBM and 5,712 non-TBM controls were included in the final analysis. These 63 studies were divided into two groups comprising 71 data sets (43 in-house tests and 28 commercial tests) that used culture as the reference standard and 24 data sets (21 in-house tests and 3 commercial tests) that used a CRS. Studies which used a culture reference standard had better pooled summary estimates than studies which used CRS. The overall pooled estimates of sensitivity, specificity, positive likelihood ratio (PLR), and negative likelihood ratio (NLR) of the NAA tests against culture were 82% (95% confidence interval [CI], 75 to 87%), 99% (95% CI, 98 to 99%), 58.6 (95% CI, 35.3 to 97.3), and 0.19 (95% CI, 0.14 to 0.25), respectively. The pooled sensitivity, specificity, PLR, and NLR of NAA tests against CRS were 68% (95% CI, 41 to 87%), 98% (95% CI, 95 to 99%), 36.5 (95% CI, 15.6 to 85.3), and 0.32 (95% CI, 0.15 to 0.70), respectively. The analysis has demonstrated that the diagnostic accuracy of NAA tests is currently insufficient for them to replace culture as a lone diagnostic test. NAA tests may be used in combination with culture due to the advantage of time to result and in scenarios where culture tests are not feasible. Further work to improve NAA tests would benefit from the availability of standardized reference standards and improvements to the methodology.


meta-analysis; test accuracy; tuberculosis; tuberculous meningitis

[Available on 2019-11-24]

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