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Infectious Diseases - Public Health and Epidemiology - Respiratory Medicine

Survey of the Diagnostic Retooling Process in National TB Reference Laboratories, with Special Focus on Rapid Speciation Tests Endorsed by WHO in 2007
Published: Friday, August 24, 2012
Author: Sanne C. van Kampen et al.

by Sanne C. van Kampen, Linda Oskam, Coosje J. Tuijn, Paul R. Klatser


Successful integration of new diagnostics in national tuberculosis (TB) control programs, also called ‘retooling’, is highly dependent on operational aspects related to test availability, accessibility and affordability. This survey aimed to find out whether recommendations to use new diagnostics lead to successful retooling in high TB endemic countries, using immunochromatographic tests (ICTs) for TB culture speciation as a case study. ICTs are recommended to accurately confirm the presence of bacteria of the Mycobacterium tuberculosis complex in liquid culture isolates.

Methods and Findings

Questionnaires were sent to national TB reference laboratories (NRLs) in 42 high TB endemic countries to address their access to information on ICT implementation, logistics related to availability, accessibility and affordability of ICTs, and testing algorithms. Results from 16 responding countries indicated that half of the NRLs were aware of the contents of WHO guidance documents on liquid culture and ICT implementation, as well as their eligibility for a negotiated pricing agreement for ICT procurement. No major issues with availability and accessibility of ICTs were raised. When asked about testing algorithms, ICTs were not used as stand-alone or first test for TB culture identification as recommended by WHO.


The low response rate was a limitation of this survey and together with NRLs managers' unawareness of global guidance, suggests a lack of effective communication between partners of the global laboratory network and NRLs. TB tests could become more affordable to high TB endemic countries, if the possibility to negotiate lower prices for commercial products is communicated to them more successfully. NRLs need additional guidance to identify where available technologies can be most usefully implemented and in what order, taking into account long-term laboratory strategies.