Tuberculosis in Children: Diagnosis and Epidemiology

Tran Thi Sinh (2017). Tuberculosis in Children: Diagnosis and Epidemiology. PhD thesis The Open University.



Globally, an estimated one-million new tuberculosis (TB) cases occurred in children in 2014. For a long time, research of TB in children has been neglected. Most research and surveillance of TB is performed in adults, and the resulting lack of evidence in children is a major barrier for implementation of rational control strategies for children, including diagnosis. More research on TB in children is of importance as children are more susceptible to developing severe extrapulmonary TB, children require different approaches to both diagnosis and treatment and paediatric TB reflects the ongoing transmission of TB in the population. This research gap on the epidemiology of tuberculosis in children, especially in high burden countries, should be addressed in order to better understand the dynamics of TB transmission in both adults and children. Accurate data are the basis for establishment of effective control strategies. This thesis aims to assess the diagnostic role of microscopic observation drug susceptibility (MODS) and mycobacterial blood culture for diagnosis of TB in children as well as to present the epidemiological characteristics of paediatric TB in northern Vietnam with regard to drug resistance and genotypes of Mycobacterium tuberculosis (MTB), the causative agent of TB, isolated from them.

MODS is a low cost non-commercial liquid culture assay to detect MTB by microscopy. MODS was compared with conventional assays including Ziehl-Neelsen smear (ZN) and Löwenstein-Jensen culture (LJ) in a study conducted from 2009 to 2010 at the National Hospital for Paediatrics, a general paediatric hospital, in Hanoi, Vietnam. In suspected paediatric TB cases, the MODS test was shown to be significantly more sensitive than both smear (46.0% vs. 8.8%) and LJ (46.0% vs. 38.9%), and significantly faster than LJ with a median time difference of 28 days in favour of MODS (7 days vs. 35 days). The findings suggest that MODS is a rapid low-cost diagnostic tool for TB diagnosis in the paediatric population.

The additional yield of mycobacterial blood culture was assessed in comparison to routine detection methods for TB diagnosis in children in two hospitals in Vietnam. The findings show that mycobacterial blood culture detected an additional six TB cases of which 5 cases were negative with other tests and in the remaining case no other tests were done. All six cases were susceptible to rifampicin and isoniazid. The overall performance of TB blood culture was poor as compared to routine culture with regard to detection rate (2.9%, 16/554 vs. 16.6%, 92/554) and turnaround time (26 days vs. 14 days). The incremental cost for adding one additional TB case is substantial. Therefore, addition of mycobacterial blood culture into routine diagnostics has limited utility in resource limited settings.

To assess the molecular epidemiology of paediatric TB in northern Vietnam, a collection of 125 MTB isolates from children with TB admitted to NHP during 2009 to 2013 was analysed. Drug susceptibility testing results from 121 isolates and genotypes from 120 isolates were generated. The phenotypic drug susceptibility testing showed that 20.7% was resistant to isoniazid (25/121), 3.3% resistant to rifampicin (4/121), 28.1% resistant to streptomycin (34/121) and 2.5% resistant to ethambutol (1/121). There were 4 cases with multidrug resistant TB. The high frequency of resistance to isoniazid and streptomycin are consistent with data from adults in Vietnam, suggesting the ongoing transmission of drug resistant MTB in the community. MIRU typing patterns showed that the Beijing genotype was predominant in this population (63.3%, 76/120), which is in agreement with various prior studies in adults in Vietnam. These findings provide more evidence to support the hypothesis of the epidemic spread of the Beijing genotype in Vietnam. In this study, an association between Beijing genotype and drug resistance to streptomycin and isoniazid was observed. The number of MDR isolates was too small to draw conclusions regarding association of MDR and Beijing genotype.

Collectively, these results demonstrate that liquid culture can improve the yield of TB diagnosis in Vietnam and mycobacterial blood culture should not be routinely performed for paediatric cases. The molecular epidemiology study also showed that the Beijing genotype is the predominant lineage among actively transmitted strains in Vietnam and that it is associated with both isoniazid and streptomycin resistance. Paediatric TB remains a significant cause of morbidity and mortality in Vietnamese children and sustained political and social commitment from all stakeholders, including governments, funders, academics and the medical community will be needed to improve diagnosis, treatment and prevention of TB in children globally.

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