Despite the South African antiretroviral therapy rollout, which should reduce the incidence of HIV-associated tuberculosis (TB), the number of TB-attributable deaths in KwaZuluNatal (KZN) remains high. TB is often diagnosed clinically, without microbiologic confirmation, leading to inaccurate estimates of TB-attributed deaths. This may contribute to avoidable deaths, and impact population-based TB mortality estimates.
Objectives. (1) To measure the number of cases with microbiologically confirmed TB in a retrospective cohort of deceased inpatients with TB-attributed hospital deaths. (2) To estimate the rates of multi-drug resistant (MDR) and extensively drug resistant (XDR) TB in this cohort. Results. Of 2752 deaths at EDH between September 2006 and March 2007, 403 (15%) were attributed to TB on the death certificate. 176 of the TB-attributed deaths (44%) had a specimen sent for smear or culture; only 64 (36%) had a TB diagnosis confirmed by either test. Of the 39 culture-confirmed cases, 27/39 (69%) had fully susceptible TB and 27/39 (69%) had smear-negative culture-positive TB (SNTB). Two patients had drug monoresistance, three patients had MDR-TB, and one had XDR-TB. Conclusions. Most TB-attributed deaths in this cohort were not microbiologically confirmed. Of confirmed cases, most were smear-negative, culture positive and were susceptible to all first line drugs.