Systematic review of pooling sputum as an efficient method for xpert MTB/RIF tuberculosis testing during COVID-19 pandemic. Emerg Infect Dis. 2021;27(3):719–27


HPRU-EZI Authors - Cuevas, Luis E., Adams, Emily


GeneXpert-based testing with Xpert MTB/RIF or Ultra assays is essential for tuberculosis diagnosis. However, testing may be affected by cartridge and staff shortages. More efficient testing strategies could help, especially during the coronavirus disease pandemic. We searched the literature to systematically review whether GeneXpert-based testing of pooled sputum samples achieves sensitivity and specificity similar to testing individual samples; this method could potentially save time and preserve the limited supply of cartridges. From 6 publications, we found 2-sample pools using Xpert MTB/RIF had 87.5% and 96.0% sensitivity (average sensitivity 94%; 95% CI 89.0%–98.0%) (2 studies). Four-sample pools averaged 91% sensitivity with Xpert MTB/RIF (2 studies) and 98% with Ultra (2 studies); combining >4 samples resulted in lower sensitivity. Two studies reported that pooling achieved 99%–100% specificity and 27%–31% in cartridge savings. Our results show that pooling may improve efficiency of GeneXpert-based testing.


Emerging Infectious Diseases

Research Themes:

2. Diagnostic and Host Response