Indexed on: 12 Aug '14Published on: 12 Aug '14Published in: PloS one
The culture-negative conversion rate of sputum after 2 months of treatment in patients with pulmonary tuberculosis (TB) is used as a reliable surrogate marker for relapse after completion of treatment. We hypothesized that culture conversion of sputum at 2 months of anti-TB treatment and the time to culture conversion are different among pulmonary TB patients who are diagnosed using different methods.Culture-confirmed pulmonary TB patients who were diagnosed between 1 January, 2011 and 31 December, 2012 were classified into three groups based on the diagnostic method that prompted treatment initiation: positive acid-fast bacilli (AFB) staining of sputum (smear-positive group), negative AFB staining, but Mycobacterium tuberculosis was cultured from sputum (culture-positive group), and positive AFB staining, positive polymerase chain reaction (PCR) for M. tuberculosis, or culture of M. tuberculosis from a bronchoscopic specimen (bronchoscopy group). Rates of negative mycobacterial culture conversion at 2 months of anti-TB treatment and the time to negative culture conversion of sputum were compared among the three groups.A total of 203 patients with culture-confirmed pulmonary TB were included in the final analysis. TB patients in the culture-positive group (94.1%) and the bronchoscopy group (97.6%) showed a higher culture conversion rate at 2 months of treatment than those in the smear-positive group (78.7%, P = 0.001). Additionally, the time to culture conversion was longer in the smear-positive group (median, 40 days) than in the culture-positive (median, 19 days; P = 0.009) and bronchoscopy groups (median, 29 days; P = 0.004).The higher culture conversion rate at 2 months and the shorter time to culture conversion among pulmonary TB patients with a negative AFB smear suggests the feasibility of shortening treatment duration and isolation in these patients.