The accuracy of rapid diagnostic tests for detecting typhoid and paratyphoid (enteric) fever

Cochrane researchers assessed the accuracy of commercially-available rapid diagnostic tests and their prototypes (including TUBEX, Typhidot, Typhidot-M, Test-it Typhoid, and other tests) for detecting typhoid and paratyphoid (enteric) fever in people living in countries where the estimated number of individuals with the disease at any one time is greater than 10 per 100,000 population. If accurate, they could replace the current World Health Organization (WHO)-recommended diagnostic test: culture (growing the bacteria that causes the infection from a patient’s blood or bone marrow).

Background

Typhoid fever and paratyphoid fever are infections caused by the bacteria Salmonella Typhi and Salmonella Paratyphi A respectively. The term ‘enteric fever’ is used to describe both infections. Enteric fever can be difficult to diagnose as the signs and symptoms are similar to those of other infectious diseases that cause fever such as malaria.

The recommended test to confirm if a person has enteric fever is to grow the Salmonella from their blood. It takes at least 48 hours to give a result, so cannot help healthcare workers make a diagnosis the same day the blood culture is taken. Blood cultures may give a negative result even though a person has enteric fever. The test also requires a laboratory and trained staff, which are often unavailable in communities where enteric fever is common.

Rapid diagnostic tests (RDTs) are designed to be easy to use, and to deliver a quick result without the need for a blood culture laboratory. The cost of an enteric fever RDT would be significantly less than a blood culture, and requires less training to perform.

Study characteristics

Cochrane researchers searched the available literature up to 4 March 2016 and included 37 studies. Most studies recruited participants from South Asia. Most participants were adults, with 22 studies including children. All of the RDTs evaluated detected Salmonella Typhi (typhoid fever) only.

Quality of the evidence

The Cochrane researchers evaluated the quality of the data for each study using a standardized checklist called QUADAS-2. High quality studies that compared different types of RDT in the same patients were few in number. Two-thirds of the included studies did not evaluate the RDTs in the context of patients who are typically tested for the disease. Many studies utilized a particular study design (a case control study) which risks overestimating RDT accuracy. In the studies evaluating the Typhidot RDT, it was often unclear how many test results were indeterminate, when the test cannot distinguish a current episode of infection from a previous disease episode. Overall, the certainty of the evidence in the studies that evaluated enteric fever RDTs was low.

Key results

Sensitivity indicates the percentage of patients with a positive test result who are correctly diagnosed with disease. Specificity indicates the percentage of patients who are correctly identified as not having disease. TUBEX showed an average sensitivity of 78% and specificity of 87%. Typhidot studies, grouped together to include Typhidot, Typhidot-M, and TyphiRapid-Tr02, showed an average sensitivity of 84% and specificity of 79%. When Typhidot studies with clear reporting of indeterminate results are considered, the average sensitivity and specificity of Typhidot was 78% and 77% respectively. Test-It Typhoid and prototypes (KIT) showed an average sensitivity of 69% and specificity of 90%.

Based on these results, in 1000 patients with fever where 30% (300 patients) have enteric fever, we would expect Typhidot tests reporting indeterminate results or where tests do not produce indeterminate results to, on average, miss the diagnosis (give a false negative result) in 66 patients with enteric fever, TUBEX to miss 66, and Test-It Typhoid and prototypes (KIT) to miss 93. In the 700 people without enteric fever, the number of people incorrectly given a diagnosis of enteric fever (a false positive result) would be on average 161 with these Typhidot tests, 91 with TUBEX, and 70 with the Test-It Typhoid and prototypes (KIT). These differences in the number of false negative and false positive results in patients from the different tests are not statistically important. The RDTs evaluated are not sufficiently accurate to replace blood culture as a diagnostic test for enteric fever.

Authors' conclusions: 

In 37 studies that evaluated the diagnostic accuracy of RDTs for enteric fever, few studies were at a low risk of bias. The three main RDT tests and variants had moderate diagnostic accuracy. There was no evidence of a difference between the average sensitivity and specificity of the three main RDT tests. More robust evaluations of alternative RDTs for enteric fever are needed.

Read the full abstract...
Background: 

Differentiating both typhoid (Salmonella Typhi) and paratyphoid (Salmonella Paratyphi A) infection from other causes of fever in endemic areas is a diagnostic challenge. Although commercial point-of-care rapid diagnostic tests (RDTs) for enteric fever are available as alternatives to the current reference standard test of blood or bone marrow culture, or to the widely used Widal Test, their diagnostic accuracy is unclear. If accurate, they could potentially replace blood culture as the World Health Organization (WHO)-recommended main diagnostic test for enteric fever.

Objectives: 

To assess the diagnostic accuracy of commercially available rapid diagnostic tests (RDTs) and prototypes for detecting Salmonella Typhi or Paratyphi A infection in symptomatic persons living in endemic areas.

Search strategy: 

We searched the Cochrane Infectious Diseases Group Specialized Register, MEDLINE, Embase, Science Citation Index, IndMED, African Index Medicus, LILACS, ClinicalTrials.gov, and the World Health Organization (WHO) International Clinical Trials Registry Platform (ICTRP) up to 4 March 2016. We manually searched WHO reports, and papers from international conferences on Salmonella infections. We also contacted test manufacturers to identify studies.

Selection criteria: 

We included diagnostic accuracy studies of enteric fever RDTs in patients with fever or with symptoms suggestive of enteric fever living in endemic areas. We classified the reference standard used as either Grade 1 (result from a blood culture and a bone marrow culture) or Grade 2 (result from blood culture and blood polymerase chain reaction, or from blood culture alone).

Data collection and analysis: 

Two review authors independently extracted the test result data. We used a modified QUADAS-2 extraction form to assess methodological quality. We performed a meta-analysis when there were sufficient studies for the test and heterogeneity was reasonable.

Main results: 

Thirty-seven studies met the inclusion criteria and included a total of 5080 participants (range 50 to 1732). Enteric fever prevalence rates in the study populations ranged from 1% to 75% (median prevalence 24%, interquartile range (IQR) 11% to 46%). The included studies evaluated 16 different RDTs, and 16 studies compared two or more different RDTs. Only three studies used the Grade 1 reference standard, and only 11 studies recruited unselected febrile patients. Most included studies were from Asia, with five studies from sub-Saharan Africa. All of the RDTs were designed to detect S.Typhi infection only.

Most studies evaluated three RDTs and their variants: TUBEX in 14 studies; Typhidot (Typhidot, Typhidot-M, and TyphiRapid-Tr02) in 22 studies; and the Test-It Typhoid immunochromatographic lateral flow assay, and its earlier prototypes (dipstick, latex agglutination) developed by the Royal Tropical Institute, Amsterdam (KIT) in nine studies. Meta-analyses showed an average sensitivity of 78% (95% confidence interval (CI) 71% to 85%) and specificity of 87% (95% CI 82% to 91%) for TUBEX; and an average sensitivity of 69% (95% CI 59% to 78%) and specificity of 90% (95% CI 78% to 93%) for all Test-It Typhoid and prototype tests (KIT). Across all forms of the Typhidot test, the average sensitivity was 84% (95% CI 73% to 91%) and specificity was 79% (95% CI 70% to 87%). When we based the analysis on the 13 studies of the Typhidot test that either reported indeterminate test results or where the test format means there are no indeterminate results, the average sensitivity was 78% (95% CI 65% to 87%) and specificity was 77% (95% CI 66% to 86%). We did not identify any difference in either sensitivity or specificity between TUBEX, Typhidot, and Test-it Typhoid tests when based on comparison to the 13 Typhidot studies where indeterminate results are either reported or not applicable. If TUBEX and Test-it Typhoid are compared to all Typhidot studies, the sensitivity of Typhidot was higher than Test-it Typhoid (15% (95% CI 2% to 28%), but other comparisons did not show a difference at the 95% level of CIs.

In a hypothetical cohort of 1000 patients presenting with fever where 30% (300 patients) have enteric fever, on average Typhidot tests reporting indeterminate results or where tests do not produce indeterminate results will miss the diagnosis in 66 patients with enteric fever, TUBEX will miss 66, and Test-It Typhoid and prototype (KIT) tests will miss 93. In the 700 people without enteric fever, the number of people incorrectly diagnosed with enteric fever would be 161 with Typhidot tests, 91 with TUBEX, and 70 with Test-It Typhoid and prototype (KIT) tests. The CIs around these estimates were wide, with no difference in false positive results shown between tests.

The quality of the data for each study was evaluated using a standardized checklist called QUADAS-2. Overall, the certainty of the evidence in the studies that evaluated enteric fever RDTs was low.

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