Detection of the Mycobacterium tuberculosis cell wall antigen lipoarabinomannan (LAM) in urine permits diagnoses of tuberculosis (TB) to be made in HIV-infected patients with advanced immunodeficiency. This can be achieved at the point-of-care within just 30 minutes using the Determine TB-LAM, which is a commercially available, lateral-flow urine ‘strip test’ assay. The assay has been shown to have useful diagnostic accuracy in patients enrolling in antiretroviral treatment services or in HIV-infected patients requiring admission to hospital medical wards in sub-Saharan Africa. Such patients have high mortality risk and have most to gain from rapid diagnosis of TB and immediate initiation of treatment. However, few studies using this assay have yet been reported and many questions remain concerning the correct use of the assay, interpretation of results, the role of the assay as an add-on test within existing diagnostic algorithms and the types of further studies needed. In this paper we address a series of questions with the aim of informing the design, conduct and interpretation of future studies. Specifically, we clarify which clinical populations are most likely to derive benefit from use of this assay and how patients enrolled in such studies might best be characterised. We describe the importance of employing a rigorous microbiological diagnostic reference standard in studies of diagnostic accuracy and discuss issues surrounding the specificity of the assay in different geographical areas and potential cross-reactivity with non-tuberculous mycobacteria and other organisms. We highlight the importance of careful procedures for urine collection and storage and the critical issue of how to read and interpret the test strips. Finally, we consider how the assay could be used in combination with other assays and outline the types of studies that are required to build the evidence base concerning its use.
Available at: http://works.bepress.com/andrew_kerkhoff/10/