Impact of Point-of-Care Xpert MTB/RIF on Tuberculosis Treatment Initiation. A Cluster-randomized Trial

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Point-of-care (POC) diagnostics have the potential to reduce pretreatment loss to follow-up and delays to initiation of appropriate tuberculosis (TB) treatment.


To evaluate the effect of a POC diagnostic strategy on initiation of appropriate TB treatment.


We conducted a cluster-randomized trial of adults with cough who were HIV positive and/or at high risk of drug-resistant TB. Two-week time blocks were randomized to two strategies: (1) Xpert MTB/RIF test (Cepheid, Sunnyvale, CA) performed at a district hospital laboratory or (2) POC Xpert MTB/RIF test performed at a primary health care clinic. All participants provided two sputum specimens: one for the Xpert test and the other for culture as a reference standard. The primary outcome was the proportion of participants with culture-positive pulmonary tuberculosis (PTB) initiated on appropriate TB treatment within 30 days.

Measurements and Main Results:

Between August 22, 2011, and March 1, 2013, 36 two-week blocks were randomized, and 1,297 individuals were enrolled (646 in the laboratory arm, 651 in the POC arm), 159 (12.4%) of whom had culture-positive PTB. The proportions of participants with culture-positive PTB initiated on appropriate TB treatment within 30 days were 76.5% in the laboratory arm and 79.5% in the POC arm (odds ratio, 1.13; 95% confidence interval, 0.51-2.53; P = 0.76; risk difference, 3.1%; 95% confidence interval, −16.2 to 10.1). The median time to initiation of appropriate treatment was 7 days (laboratory) versus 1 day (POC).


POC positioning of the Xpert test led to more rapid initiation of appropriate TB treatment. Achieving one-stop diagnosis and treatment for all people with TB will require simpler, more sensitive diagnostics and broader strengthening of health systems.


Clinical trial registered with (ISRCTN 18642314) and (DOH-27-0711-3568).

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