Xpert Ultra compared to Xpert MTB/RIF for diagnosing pulmonary tuberculosis and rifampicin resistance in adults

Why is improving the diagnosis of pulmonary tuberculosis important?

Tuberculosis is one of the leading causes of death worldwide. While tuberculosis is largely curable when detected early and effectively treated, around 1.2 million people died of tuberculosis in 2019. Xpert MTB/RIF and Xpert Ultra (the newest version) are World Health Organization-recommended rapid tests that simultaneously detect tuberculosis and rifampicin resistance in people with tuberculosis symptoms. Rifampicin is an important antituberculosis drug. Not recognizing tuberculosis when it is present (false negative) may result in severe illness and death, and an increased risk of infecting others. An incorrect diagnosis of tuberculosis (false positive) may result in anxiety, additional testing, unnecessary treatment, and medication side effects.

What is the aim of this review?

To determine how accurate Xpert Ultra is compared with Xpert MTB/RIF for diagnosing pulmonary tuberculosis and rifampicin resistance in adults. An extensive review of Xpert MTB/RIF accuracy was recently published as a Cochrane Review.

What was studied in this review?

We compared the diagnostic accuracy of Xpert Ultra and Xpert MTB/RIF with results primarily measured against culture (detection of pulmonary tuberculosis) and drug susceptibility testing and line probe assays (detection of rifampicin resistance).

What are the main results in this review?

Nine studies (3500 participants) compared Xpert Ultra to Xpert MTB/RIF for diagnosing pulmonary tuberculosis, and five studies (930 participants) compared Xpert Ultra to Xpert MTB/RIF for rifampicin resistance.

How confident are we in the results of this review?

Confident. The review included sufficient studies and participants and used optimum reference standards. In the comparison between Xpert Ultra and Xpert MTB/RIF, most studies were at low risk of bias.

Who do the results of this review apply to?

People considered to have pulmonary tuberculosis.

What are the implications of this review?

The results of these studies indicate that, in theory, for a population of 1000 people where 100 of those presenting with symptoms have pulmonary tuberculosis, Xpert Ultra will miss 9 cases, and Xpert MTB/RIF will miss 15 cases. The number of people wrongly diagnosed with pulmonary tuberculosis would be 40 with Xpert Ultra, and 14 with Xpert MTB/RIF.

The results of these studies indicate that, in theory, for a population of 1000 people where 100 of those have rifampicin resistance, Xpert Ultra will miss 5 cases, and Xpert MTB/RIF will miss 5 cases. The number of people wrongly diagnosed with rifampicin resistance would be 8 with Xpert Ultra, and 11 with Xpert MTB/RIF.

How up-to-date is this review?

28 January 2020.

Authors' conclusions: 

Xpert Ultra has higher sensitivity and lower specificity than Xpert MTB/RIF for pulmonary tuberculosis, especially in smear-negative participants and people living with HIV. Xpert Ultra specificity was lower than that of Xpert MTB/RIF in participants with a history of tuberculosis. The sensitivity and specificity trade-off would be expected to vary by setting. For detection of rifampicin resistance, Xpert Ultra and Xpert MTB/RIF had similar sensitivity and specificity. Ultra trace-positive results were common.

Xpert Ultra and Xpert MTB/RIF provide accurate results and can allow rapid initiation of treatment for rifampicin-resistant and multidrug-resistant tuberculosis.

Read the full abstract...
Background: 

Xpert MTB/RIF and Xpert MTB/RIF Ultra (Xpert Ultra) are World Health Organization (WHO)-recommended rapid tests that simultaneously detect tuberculosis and rifampicin resistance in people with signs and symptoms of tuberculosis. This review builds on our recent extensive Cochrane Review of Xpert MTB/RIF accuracy.

Objectives: 

To compare the diagnostic accuracy of Xpert Ultra and Xpert MTB/RIF for the detection of pulmonary tuberculosis and detection of rifampicin resistance in adults with presumptive pulmonary tuberculosis. For pulmonary tuberculosis and rifampicin resistance, we also investigated potential sources of heterogeneity.

We also summarized the frequency of Xpert Ultra trace-positive results, and estimated the accuracy of Xpert Ultra after repeat testing in those with trace-positive results.

Search strategy: 

We searched the Cochrane Infectious Diseases Group Specialized Register, MEDLINE, Embase, Science Citation Index, Web of Science, LILACS, Scopus, the WHO ICTRP, the ISRCTN registry, and ProQuest to 28 January 2020 with no language restriction.

Selection criteria: 

We included diagnostic accuracy studies using respiratory specimens in adults with presumptive pulmonary tuberculosis that directly compared the index tests. For pulmonary tuberculosis detection, the reference standards were culture and a composite reference standard. For rifampicin resistance, the reference standards were culture-based drug susceptibility testing and line probe assays.

Data collection and analysis: 

Two review authors independently extracted data using a standardized form, including data by smear and HIV status. We assessed risk of bias using QUADAS-2 and QUADAS-C. We performed meta-analyses comparing pooled sensitivities and specificities, separately for pulmonary tuberculosis detection and rifampicin resistance detection, and separately by reference standard. Most analyses used a bivariate random-effects model. For tuberculosis detection, we estimated accuracy in studies in participants who were not selected based on prior microscopy testing or history of tuberculosis. We performed subgroup analyses by smear status, HIV status, and history of tuberculosis. We summarized Xpert Ultra trace results.

Main results: 

We identified nine studies (3500 participants): seven had unselected participants (2834 participants). All compared Xpert Ultra and Xpert MTB/RIF for pulmonary tuberculosis detection; seven studies used a paired comparative accuracy design, and two studies used a randomized design. Five studies compared Xpert Ultra and Xpert MTB/RIF for rifampicin resistance detection; four studies used a paired design, and one study used a randomized design. Of the nine included studies, seven (78%) were mainly or exclusively in high tuberculosis burden countries. For pulmonary tuberculosis detection, most studies had low risk of bias in all domains.

Pulmonary tuberculosis detection

Xpert Ultra pooled sensitivity and specificity (95% credible interval) against culture were 90.9% (86.2 to 94.7) and 95.6% (93.0 to 97.4) (7 studies, 2834 participants; high-certainty evidence) versus Xpert MTB/RIF pooled sensitivity and specificity of 84.7% (78.6 to 89.9) and 98.4% (97.0 to 99.3) (7 studies, 2835 participants; high-certainty evidence). The difference in the accuracy of Xpert Ultra minus Xpert MTB/RIF was estimated at 6.3% (0.1 to 12.8) for sensitivity and −2.7% (−5.7 to −0.5) for specificity. If the point estimates for Xpert Ultra and Xpert MTB/RIF are applied to a hypothetical cohort of 1000 patients, where 10% of those presenting with symptoms have pulmonary tuberculosis, Xpert Ultra will miss 9 cases, and Xpert MTB/RIF will miss 15 cases. The number of people wrongly diagnosed with pulmonary tuberculosis would be 40 with Xpert Ultra and 14 with Xpert MTB/RIF.

In smear-negative, culture-positive participants, pooled sensitivity was 77.5% (67.6 to 85.6) for Xpert Ultra versus 60.6% (48.4 to 71.7) for Xpert MTB/RIF; pooled specificity was 95.8% (92.9 to 97.7) for Xpert Ultra versus 98.8% (97.7 to 99.5) for Xpert MTB/RIF (6 studies).

In people living with HIV, pooled sensitivity was 87.6% (75.4 to 94.1) for Xpert Ultra versus 74.9% (58.7 to 86.2) for Xpert MTB/RIF; pooled specificity was 92.8% (82.3 to 97.0) for Xpert Ultra versus 99.7% (98.6 to 100.0) for Xpert MTB/RIF (3 studies).

In participants with a history of tuberculosis, pooled sensitivity was 84.2% (72.5 to 91.7) for Xpert Ultra versus 81.8% (68.7 to 90.0) for Xpert MTB/RIF; pooled specificity was 88.2% (70.5 to 96.6) for Xpert Ultra versus 97.4% (91.7 to 99.5) for Xpert MTB/RIF (4 studies).

The proportion of Ultra trace-positive results ranged from 3.0% to 30.4%. Data were insufficient to estimate the accuracy of Xpert Ultra repeat testing in individuals with initial trace-positive results.

Rifampicin resistance detection

Pooled sensitivity and specificity were 94.9% (88.9 to 97.9) and 99.1% (97.7 to 99.8) (5 studies, 921 participants; high-certainty evidence) for Xpert Ultra versus 95.3% (90.0 to 98.1) and 98.8% (97.2 to 99.6) (5 studies, 930 participants; high-certainty evidence) for Xpert MTB/RIF. The difference in the accuracy of Xpert Ultra minus Xpert MTB/RIF was estimated at −0.3% (−6.9 to 5.7) for sensitivity and 0.3% (−1.2 to 2.0) for specificity. If the point estimates for Xpert Ultra and Xpert MTB/RIF are applied to a hypothetical cohort of 1000 patients, where 10% of those presenting with symptoms have rifampicin resistance, Xpert Ultra will miss 5 cases, and Xpert MTB/RIF will miss 5 cases. The number of people wrongly diagnosed with rifampicin resistance would be 8 with Xpert Ultra and 11 with Xpert MTB/RIF.

We identified a higher number of rifampicin resistance indeterminate results with Xpert Ultra, pooled proportion 7.6% (2.4 to 21.0) compared to Xpert MTB/RIF pooled proportion 0.8% (0.2 to 2.4). The estimated difference in the pooled proportion of indeterminate rifampicin resistance results for Xpert Ultra versus Xpert MTB/RIF was 6.7% (1.4 to 20.1).

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