Among 105 countries possessing representative data on resistance to fluoroquinolones from the past 15 years, the proportion of MDR/RR-TB cases with resistance to any fluoroquinolone for which testing was done was 20.1% (95% CI: 15.5-25.0%). Thus, rapid and early testing for the detection of fluoroquinolone resistance is essential for determining eligibility for treatment with the all-oral 9-12 month standardized shorter regimen for MDR/RR-TB. However, the current limitation with testing for fluoroquinolone resistance is the limited accessibility of current technologies (which are often only available at higher tiers of the health system) and poor yield in paucibacillary specimens.
Low complexity automated NAATs are a new class of diagnostics intended for use as a reflex test in specimens determined to be Mtb complex (MTBC)-positive; they offer rapid DST in intermediate and peripheral laboratories. The first product in this class simultaneously detects resistance to isoniazid, fluoroquinolones, ethionamide and amikacin. Results are available in under 90 minutes, leading to faster time to results than the current standard of care, which includes LPAs and culture-based phenotypic DST.
An additional value of the tests is the accurate and rapid detection of isoniazid resistance, which is relevant for both rifampicin-resistant TB (RR-TB) and rifampicin-susceptible TB; the latter is often undiagnosed and contributes to a large burden of disease. Globally, rifampicin-susceptible TB is estimated to occur in 13.1% (95% CI: 9.9-16.9%) of new cases and 17.4% (95% CI: 0.5-54.0%) of previously treated cases. Thus, this test could also be used as a reflex test to complement existing technologies that only test for rifampicin, allowing the rapid and accurate detection of isoniazid-resistant, rifampicin-susceptible TB.
Although these new technologies are excellent at detecting resistance to selected drugs, conventional culture-based phenotypic DST remains important to determine resistance to other anti-TB agents, particularly the new and repurposed medicines such as bedaquiline and linezolid.
1. In people with bacteriologically confirmed pulmonary TB, low complexity automated NAATs may be used on sputum for the initial detection of resistance to isoniazid and fluoroquinolones, rather than culture-based phenotypic DST.Conditional recommendation; moderate certainty of evidence for diagnostic accuracy
2. In people with bacteriologically confirmed pulmonary TB and resistance to rifampicin, low complexity automated NAATs may be used on sputum for the initial detection of resistance to ethionamide, rather than DNA sequencing of the inhA promoter. Conditional recommendation; very low certainty of evidence for diagnostic accuracy
3. In people with bacteriologically confirmed pulmonary TB and resistance to rifampicin, low complexity automated NAATs may be used on sputum for the initial detection of resistance to amikacin, rather than culture-based phenotypic DST Conditional recommendation; low certainty of evidence for diagnostic accuracy
There are several subgroups to be considered for these recommendations:
- The recommendations are based on the evidence of diagnostic accuracy in sputum of adults with bacteriologically confirmed pulmonary TB, with or without rifampicin resistance.
- The recommendations are extrapolated to adolescents and children, based on the generalization of data from adults.
- The recommendations apply to people living with HIV (studies included a varying proportion of such individuals); data stratified by HIV status were not available.
- The recommendations are extrapolated to people with extrapulmonary TB, and testing of non-sputum samples was considered appropriate, which affects the certainty. The panel did not evaluate test accuracy in non-sputum samples directly, including in children; however, extrapolation was considered appropriate given that WHO has recommendations for similar technologies for use on non-sputum samples (e.g. Xpert MTB/RIF and Xpert Ultra).
- Recommendations for detection of resistance to amikacin and ethionamide are only relevant for people who have bacteriologically confirmed pulmonary TB and resistance to rifampicin.
The index tests are rapid, low complexity automated NAATs for detection of resistance to isoniazid and second-line anti-TB drugs.
"Automated test" in the low complexity category is defined as a test where most reagents are enclosed in a disposable sealed container to which a clinical specimen is added and almost all processes (e.g. DNA extraction or PCR procedures) are performed within the container linked to the diagnostic platform. Such automated tests may require an initial manual specimen treatment step before transfer of the material requiring testing into the cartridge.
"Low complexity" refers to a situation where no specialized biosafety infrastructure is required; only basic laboratory skills to perform the test and equipment to perform the test are required.
Xpert MTB/XDR assay (Xpert MTB/XDR, Cepheid, Sunnyvale, United States of America [USA]) is the only index test in this review. Evidence on MeltPro® XDR-TB (MeltPro, Xiamen Zeesan Biotech Co Ltd, China) provided by the manufacturer was not sufficient for this assay to be included in this review, and no independent evaluations of MeltPro were identified.
Xpert MTB/XDR detects MTBC DNA and genomic mutations associated with resistance to isoniazid, fluoroquinolones, ethionamide and second-line injectable drugs (amikacin, kanamycin and capreomycin) in a single cartridge (see Table 2.3.1). This review does not include molecular DST for kanamycin and capreomycin because WHO does not currently recommend these second-line injectable agents for use in RR-TB or MDR-TB treatment regimens (33).¹⁷
Xpert MTB/XDR employs Cepheid's GeneXpert platform, similar to that used by Xpert MTB/RIF and Xpert MTB/RIF Ultra. However, in the case of Xpert MTB/XDR, the platform supports multiplexing via 10-colour technology, which is different from the six-colour technology employed by Xpert MTB/RIF and Xpert MTB/RIF Ultra.
The package insert from the manufacturer explains that Xpert MTB/XDR is intended for use as a reflex test in specimens (unprocessed sputum or concentrated sputum sediments) that have been found to be MTBC-positive.The LoD for Mtb by Xpert MTB/XDR (136 cfu/mL in unprocessed sputum) is similar to that of Xpert MTB/RIF (112.6 cfu/mL), but higher than that of Xpert Ultra (15.6 cfu/mL) (34). The manufacturer states in the package insert: "Specimens with 'MTB trace detected' results when tested with the Xpert MTB/RIF Ultra assay are expected to be below the limit of detection of the MTB/XDR assay and are not recommended for testing with the Xpert MTB/XDR assay". As with Xpert MTB/RIF and Xpert Ultra, Xpert MTB/XDR detects both live and dead bacteria.
Xpert MTB/XDR can report results as "Mtb not detected" or "Mtb detected". If results are reported as "Mtb detected", each drug is reported as resistance "detected" or "not detected". If results are reported as "Mtb not detected", "invalid", "error" or "no result", then no DST results are reported.
Justification and evidence
The WHO Global TB Programme initiated an update of the current guidelines and commissioned a systematic review on the use of low complexity automated NAATs for the detection of resistance to isoniazid and second-line TB drugs in people with signs and symptoms of TB.
The PICO questions were designed to form the basis for the evidence search, retrieval and analysis:
1. Should low complexity automated NAATs be used on sputum in people with signs and symptoms of pulmonary TB, irrespective of resistance to rifampicin, for detection of resistance to isoniazid, as compared with culture-based phenotypic DST?
2. Should low complexity automated NAATs be used on sputum in people with signs and symptoms of pulmonary TB, irrespective of resistance to rifampicin, for detection of resistance to fluoroquinolones, as compared with culture-based phenotypic DST?
3. Should low complexity automated NAATs be used on culture isolates in people with signs and symptoms of pulmonary TB, and detected resistance to rifampicin, for detection of resistance to ethionamide, as compared with genotypic sequencing of the inhA promoter?
4. Should low complexity automated NAATs be used on sputum in people with signs and symptoms of pulmonary TB, and detected resistance to rifampicin, for detection of resistance to amikacin, as compared with culture-based phenotypic DST?
The databases Ovid Medline (Ovid, 1946 to present) and Embase (Ovid, 1947 to present) were searched for studies evaluating cartridge-based tests using the following search terms: tuberculosis, pulmonary AND Xpert, GeneXpert, Truenat, cartridge, point-of-care systems, drug susceptibility test, isoniazid resistance, fluoroquinolone resistance and second-line injectable drug resistance. Clinicaltrials.gov and the WHO International Clinical Trials Registry Platform were also searched for trials in progress. Searches were run up to 6 September 2020 without language restriction. On 4 November 2020, an additional search was run using the search terms Zeesan and MeltPro.
Researchers at FIND, the WHO Global TB Programme, the manufacturer and other experts in the field of TB diagnostics were contacted for information about ongoing and unpublished studies. Data submitted in response to the WHO public call were reviewed.
Drug resistance was compared against a phenotypic reference standard (or a genotypic reference standard for ethionamide resistance), as well as a composite reference standard that was constructed by combining the results of phenotypic and genotypic DST results in studies where both had been performed.
The certainty of the evidence was assessed consistently through PICO questions, using the GRADE approach (10), which produces an overall quality assessment (or certainty) of evidence and a framework for translating evidence into recommendations. In the GRADE approach, even if diagnostic accuracy studies are of observational design, they start as high-quality evidence.
GRADEpro Guideline Development Tool software (19) was used to generate summary of findings tables. The quality (certainty) of evidence was rated as high (not downgraded), moderate (downgraded one level), low (downgraded two levels) or very low (downgraded more than two levels), based on five factors: risk of bias, indirectness, inconsistency, imprecision and other considerations. The quality (certainty) of evidence was downgraded one level when a serious issue was identified and by two levels when a very serious issue was identified in any of the factors used to judge the quality of evidence.
Data synthesis was structured around the four preset PICO questions, as outlined below. Three web annexes give additional information, as follows:
- details of studies included in the current analysis (Web Annex 1.6: "Low complexity automated NAATs");
- a summary of the results and details of the evidence quality assessment (Web Annex 2.6: "GRADE profiles: Low complexity automated NAATs"); and
- a summary of the GDG panel judgements (Web Annex 3.6: "Evidence to decision tables: Low complexity automated NAATs").
PICO 1: Should low complexity automated NAATs be used on sputum in people with signs and symptoms of pulmonary TB, irrespective of resistance to rifampicin, for detection of resistance to isoniazid, as compared with culture-based phenotypic DST?
Three multinational studies with 1605 participants provided data for evaluating isoniazid resistance detection. The reference standard for each of these studies was culture-based phenotypic DST. Each study centre in the multinational studies was analysed as a separate study (Fig. 2.3.1).
Several concerns were expressed about indirectness in the study populations. First, the median prevalence of isoniazid resistance in the included studies was 67.2% (range, 26.8% [Diagnostics for Multidrug Resistant Tuberculosis in Africa - DIAMA, Benin] to 93.9% [FIND, Moldova]), which is higher than the global estimates for isoniazid resistance. Hence, applicability to settings with a lower prevalence of isoniazid resistance comes with some uncertainty. Second, there are potential differences in the mutations present in isoniazid monoresistant strains and MDR strains; that is, some studies suggest that the mutations found in monoresistant strains are more diverse than the mutations found in MDR strains. Third, although the population for this PICO question is "irrespective of rifampicin resistance", enrolment criteria in the studies meant that most participants within the included studies had RR-TB. As a result of these concerns, certainty of evidence was downgraded one level for indirectness both for sensitivity and specificity, and the quality (certainty) of evidence was rated moderate both for sensitivity and specificity.
The sensitivity in these three studies ranged from 81% to 100% and the specificity from 87% to 100%. The pooled sensitivity was 94.2% (95% CI: 89.3–97.0%) and the pooled specificity was 98.0% (95% CI: 95.2–99.2%).
PICO 2: Should low complexity automated NAATs be used on sputum in people with signs and symptoms of pulmonary TB, irrespective of resistance to rifampicin, for detection of resistance to fluoroquinolones, as compared with culture-based phenotypic DST?
Three multinational studies with 1337 participants provided data for evaluation of detection of fluoroquinolone resistance. The reference standard for each of these studies was culture-based phenotypic DST. Each study centre in the multinational studies was analyzed as a separate study (Fig. 2.3.3).
Specificity estimates were inconsistent, at 84% (FIND, Mumbai), 91% (FIND, New Delhi) and more than 96% for other studies. The heterogeneity in specificity estimates could not be explained. Consequently, the certainty of the evidence was downgraded one level for inconsistency; the quality (certainty) of the evidence was rated high for sensitivity and moderate for specificity.
The sensitivity for fluoroquinolone resistance in these three studies ranged from 83% to 100% and the specificity from 84% to 100%. The pooled sensitivity was 93.1% (95% CI: 88.0–96.1%) and the pooled specificity was 98.3% (95% CI: 94.5–99.5%).
PICO 3: Should low complexity automated NAATs be used on culture isolates in people with signs and symptoms of pulmonary TB, and detected resistance to rifampicin, for detection of resistance to ethionamide, as compared with genotypic sequencing of the inhA promoter?
One multinational study with 434 participants provided data for evaluating resistance to ethionamide. The reference standard for this study was DNA sequencing of the inhA promoter. Each study centre in the multinational study was analysed as a separate study (Fig. 2.3.2).
The study was judged to be at very serious risk of bias in the reference standard domain because it did not include all loci (i.e. ethA, ethR and inhA promoter) required for the reference standard to classify the target condition correctly. Against a reference standard of phenotypic DST, the pooled sensitivity was considerably lower, at 51.7% (95% CI: 33.1–69.8%). Consequently, certainty of evidence was downgraded two levels for risk of bias for both sensitivity and specificity. In addition, the 95% CIs were wide for both sensitivity and specificity, which could lead to different decisions, depending on which confidence limits are assumed. Consequently, the certainty of the evidence was downgraded one level for imprecision for both sensitivity and specificity; the quality (certainty) of evidence was rated very low for both sensitivity and specificity.
The sensitivity for ethionamide resistance in this study ranged from 78% to 100% and the specificity from 97% to 100%. The pooled sensitivity was 98.0% (95% CI: 74.2–99.9%) and the pooled specificity was 99.7% (95% CI: 83.5–100.0%).
PICO 4: Should low complexity automated NAATs be used on sputum in people with signs and symptoms of pulmonary TB, and detected resistance to rifampicin, for detection of resistance to amikacin, as compared with culture-based phenotypic DST?
One multinational study with 490 participants provided data for evaluating resistance to amikacin. The reference standard for this study was culture-based phenotypic DST. Each study centre in this multinational study was analysed as a separate study (Fig. 2.3.4).
The 95% CI for sensitivity was wide, which could lead to different decisions around true positives and false negatives, depending on which confidence limits are assumed. Also, there were few participants with amikacin resistance contributing to this analysis for the observed sensitivity. Consequently, the certainty of the evidence was downgraded two levels for imprecision. Also, there were few participants with amikacin resistance contributing to this analysis for the observed sensitivity. Consequently, the certainty of the evidence was downgraded two levels for imprecision; the quality (certainty) of evidence was rated low for sensitivity and high for specificity.
The sensitivity for amikacin resistance in this study ranged from 75% to 95% and the specificity from 96% to 100%. The pooled sensitivity was 86.1% (95% CI: 75.0–92.7%) and the pooled specificity was 98.9% (95% CI: 93.0–99.8%).
This section answers the following additional question:
What is the comparative cost, affordability and cost-effectiveness of implementation of low complexity automated NAATs?
A systematic review was conducted, focusing on economic evaluations of low complexity automated NAATs. Four online databases (Embase, Medline, Web of Science and Scopus) were searched for new studies published from 1 January 2010 through 17 September 2020. The citations of all eligible articles, guidelines and reviews were reviewed for additional studies. Experts and test manufacturers were also contacted to identify any additional unpublished studies.
The objective of the review was to summarize current economic evidence and further understand the costs, cost-effectiveness and affordability of low complexity automated NAATs.
Two low complexity automated NAATs were identified: the MeltPro MTB/RIF (Xiamen Zeesan Biotech Co Ltd, China) and the Xpert MTB/XDR assay (Cepheid, Sunnyvale, USA). Only data concerning Xpert MTB/XDR are included in this review. As is the case with Xpert MTB/RIF, the novel XDR assay can be used to test either unprocessed or concentrated sputum. No published studies providing direct evidence on the cost or cost-effectiveness of low complexity automated NAATs were identified.
Through direct communication from the Xpert MTB/XDR manufacturer, Cepheid, the low- and middle-income country (LMIC) cost for the XDR cartridge is expected to be US$ 19.80 ex-works. Shipping and customs costs will be additional and will be borne by the ordering nations or organizations, as is currently the case for Xpert MTB/RIF and Ultra cartridges.
As with the Xpert MTB/RIF and Ultra assays, the test cartridge costs represent just one component of the total unit test costs that must be considered, with equipment being another important consideration. The Xpert MTB/XDR test will not work on existing six-colour modules and will require laboratories to upgrade to 10-colour GeneXpert modules. There will be different upgrade options for the 10-colour system, with different price points depending on the needs and resources available. Upgrade options include:
- a new 10-colour system – this is the most costly option, at US$ 9420 for one module to US$ 72 350 for 16 modules, including the GeneXpert platform, computer and scanner;
- a new 10-colour satellite instrument with the GeneXpert connected to an existing system – this costs from US$ 6495 for one module to US$ 69 525 for 16 modules; and
- converting an existing GeneXpert system from a six-colour to a 10-colour system by replacing modules – a 10-colour module kit costs US$ 3860.
Additional cost considerations for Xpert MTB/XDR include additional testing or repeated testing in the case of indeterminate or non-actionable results (indeterminate, non-determinate or invalid). The potential cost burden of this is likely to vary, depending on the proportion of indeterminate test results across settings and the associated re-testing protocols.
No studies that have directly assessed the cost-effectiveness of the Xpert MTB/XDR cartridge were identified. Although extrapolation from other platforms and testing approaches for costing may be appropriate, extrapolation of cost-effectiveness data from Xpert MTB/RIF (Ultra) or other NAATs is not advised because of differences in diagnostic accuracy, costs associated with XDR treatment, and the different testing and treatment cascade of care.
Several factors are likely to influence the cost-effectiveness of Xpert MTB/XDR; they include diagnostic accuracy, which may lead to more or fewer individuals being diagnosed compared with the standard of care (which in turn will vary, depending on the local standard of care). In addition to diagnostic accuracy associated with the test itself, the diagnostic algorithm and placement of the Xpert MTB/XDR test within the algorithm has important implications.
The novel Xpert MTB/XDR provides results in less than 90 minutes. Thus, introduction of this test is likely to result in faster time to a result for genotypic DST and could affect cost-effectiveness by improving the numbers of patients initiating treatment, reducing loss to follow-up and improving survival rates. Costs associated with XDR treatment are likely to be an important driver of cost and cost-effectiveness because previous work has shown that these costs are high compared to diagnostic and other treatment costs. As larger numbers of XDR-positive individuals requiring treatment are identified, total resources required to treat these individuals will increase.
In the absence of transmission modelling studies, there is no information on the long-term population level impact of introducing Xpert MTB/XDR. Nevertheless, the benefits of identifying more cases earlier could lead to a reduction in ongoing transmission and potential cost-savings over the long term. This requires thorough investigations through transmission modelling.
How large are the resource requirements (costs)?
No published studies provided direct evidence about the total resources required. Resource requirements will include the purchase of cartridges (US$ 19.80/cartridge), upgrading of existing platforms to 10-colour modules (an upgrade that will eventually be required for all Xpert platforms: US$ 3860 to >US$ 72 350) and operational and programmatic costs associated with implementing the novel diagnostic. Resource requirements for XDR treatment (e.g. drugs, hospital capacity and staff) are also likely to increase as the number of people diagnosed increases. Total costs will vary, depending on testing volume and prevalence of XDR in the population; also, the impact on the budget will depend on the current standard of care and associated resource use.
What is the certainty of the evidence of resource requirements (costs)?
Direct costs related to the purchase of cartridges and machinery are provided from the manufacturer; however, several important items related to resource use for implementing Xpert MTB/XDR have not been investigated (e.g. staff time, overhead and operational costs).
Differences in resource use between Xpert MTB/XDR and existing approaches will vary across settings using different phenotypic and genotypic DST. There is important variability in costs of staff time and operational costs (e.g. testing volume) across settings.
Does the cost-effectiveness of the intervention favour the intervention or the comparison?
No cost-effectiveness studies using Xpert MTB/XDR were identified. Extrapolation of cost-effectiveness data from Xpert MTB/RIF or other NAATs is not advised because of differences in diagnostic accuracy, and costs associated with XDR treatment and the testing and treatment cascade of care.
More details on economic evidence synthesis and analysis are provided in Web Annex 4.9: “Systematic literature review of economic evidence for nucleic acid amplification tests (NAATs) to detect TB and DR-TB in adults and children”.
This section answers the following question about key informants' views and perspectives on the use of low complexity automated NAATs:
- Is there important uncertainty about or variability in how much end-users value the main outcomes?
- What would be the impact on health equity?
- Is the intervention acceptable to key stakeholders?
- Is the intervention feasible to implement?
The synthesis and analysis of qualitative evidence on end-users’ perspectives are discussed above in the section “User perspective” for moderate complexity automated NAATs (p. 73–77).
Findings of the review and interviews
The main findings of the systematic review and interviews are given below. Where information is from the review, a level of confidence in the QES is given; where it is from interviews, this is indicated with 'Interviews'.
Is there important uncertainty about or variability in how much end-users value the main outcomes?
• Patients in high-burden TB settings value:
- getting an accurate diagnosis and reaching diagnostic closure (finally knowing "what is wrong with me");
- avoiding diagnostic delays because they exacerbate existing financial hardships and emotional and physical suffering, and make patients feel guilty for infecting others (especially children);
- having accessible facilities; and
- reducing diagnosis-associated costs (e.g. travel, missing work) as important outcomes of the diagnostic.
QES: moderate confidence
• Low complexity automated NAATs, when compared with existing tests or sputum microscopy, are appreciated by health care professionals because of:
- the rapidity and accuracy of the results;
- the confidence that a result generates to start treatment and motivate patients;
- the diversity of sample types;
- the ability to detect drug resistance earlier or at all, for as many drugs as possible (altering a clinician's risk perception of drug resistance in children), and the consequence of avoiding costlier investigations or hospital stays.
QES: high confidence
– Compared with other available diagnostic methods, the cartridge has a quicker turnaround time for first- and second-line DST. Health care professionals value the faster turnaround time, the potential ability to reflex samples from the Xpert MTB/RIF to the Xpert MTB/XDR cartridge, and receiving information on multiple drugs and high or low level resistance simultaneously, because it could enable quicker diagnosis and optimized treatment for patients. Interviews
• Laboratory technicians appreciate low complexity automated NAATs for the following reasons:
- Overall, the tests improve laboratory work compared with sputum microscopy in terms of ease of use, ergonomics and biosafety.
QES: high confidence
- These tests require minimal user steps, and the GeneXpert platform is a familiar system that people feel comfortable running and interpreting.
• Laboratory managers appreciate that monitoring of laboratory work and training is easier than with sputum microscopy, and that use of low complexity automated NAATs eases staff retention because it increases staff satisfaction and is symbolic of progress within the TB world. QES: low confidence
What would be the impact on health equity?
The impact on health equity would be similar to that of moderate complexity automated NAATs (p. 73–77).
Is the intervention acceptable to key stakeholders?
The acceptability to key stakeholders is similar to that of moderate complexity automated NAATs (p. 73–77).
• The identified challenges in implementing the use of low complexity automated NAATs and accumulated delays at every step may compromise the added value and benefits identified by the users (e.g. avoiding delays, keeping costs low, accurate results, information on drug resistance and easing laboratory work), ultimately leading to use.
QES: high confidence
If these values are not met, it can be assumed that users are less likely to find low complexity automated NAATs acceptable.
Is the intervention feasible to implement?
- Low complexity automated NAATs may decrease the workload in the laboratory in terms of freeing up time for laboratory staff. However, based on experience with Xpert MTB/RIF (Ultra), the introduction of a new class of technologies may increase the workload of laboratory staff if added onto existing work without adjusting staffing arrangements or if the new technology does not replace existing diagnostic tests. QES: moderate confidence
- Low complexity automated NAATs require less user training than other DST methods (e.g. LPA and culture), making these tests more feasible to implement than methods with more user steps and those that require significant additional training.
Implementation of new diagnostics must be accompanied by training for clinicians, to help them interpret results from new molecular tests and understand how this relates to the treatment of a patient. In the past, with the introduction of Xpert MTB/RIF (Ultra), this has been a challenge and has led to underuse. QES: high confidence and interview study
Introduction of Xpert MTB/RIF (Ultra) has also led to overreliance on results of cartridge-based NAATs at the expense of clinical acumen. QES: moderate confidence
- Introduction of new diagnostics must also be accompanied by guidelines and algorithms that support clinicians and laboratories in communicating with each other; for example, these resources allow clinicians and laboratories to discuss discordant results, and interpret laboratory results in the context of drug availability, patient history and patient progress on a current drug regimen. Interviews
- An efficient sample transportation system, with sustainable funding mechanisms, is crucial for feasibility, especially if an algorithm requires multiple samples at different times from different collection points, as is the case when dealing with DR-TB. If mishandled during preparation, there is a risk that the sample may become contaminated and yield inconclusive results on molecular diagnostics. Participants cited good personnel skills, standardized operating procedures and significant laboratory infrastructure as essential in reducing sample contamination in their laboratory. Interviews
- The feasibility of low complexity automated NAATs is challenged if there is an accumulation of diagnostic delays or underuse (or both) at every step in the process, mainly because of health system factors:
- non-adherence to testing algorithms, testing for TB or MDR-TB late in the process, empirical treatment, false negatives due to technology failure, large sample volumes and staff shortages, poor or delayed sample transport and sample quality, poor or delayed communication of results, delays in scheduling follow-up visits and recalling patients, and inconsistent recording of results;
- lack of sufficient resources and maintenance (e.g. stock-outs; unreliable logistics; lack of funding, electricity, space, air conditioners and sputum containers; dusty environment; and delayed or absent local repair option);
- inefficient or unclear workflows and patient flows (e.g. inefficient organizational processes, poor links between providers, and unclear follow-up mechanisms or information on where patients need to go); and
- lack of data-driven and inclusive national implementation processes. QES: high confidence
- The feasibility of using low complexity automated NAATs is also challenged by the value of diagnosing MTB over DR-TB at primary care. This situation makes the NAAT less feasible as a baseline test, although it would fit at a district or intermediate level laboratory.
Factors to consider when implementing low complexity automated NAATs for detection of resistance to isoniazid and second-line anti-TB agents are as follows:
- local epidemiological data on resistance prevalence should guide local testing algorithms, whereas pretest probability is important for the clinical interpretation of test results;
- the cost of a test varies depending on parameters such as the number of samples in a batch and the staff time required; therefore, a local costing exercise should be performed;
- low, moderate and high complexity tests have successive increase in technical competency needs (qualifications and skills) and staff time, which affects planning and budgeting;
- availability and timeliness of local support services and maintenance should be considered when selecting a provider;
- laboratory accreditation and compliance with a robust quality management system (including appropriate quality control) are essential for sustained service excellence and trust;
- training of both laboratory and clinical staff will ensure effective delivery of services and clinical impact;
- use of connectivity solutions for communication of results is encouraged, to improve efficiency of service delivery and time to treatment initiation;
- rapid and early testing for the detection of fluoroquinolone resistance is essential before starting treatment with the all-oral MDR/RR-TB shorter regimen (i.e. 6-9 months); this may also become relevant (depending on the epidemiological context) if new shorter drug-susceptible TB regimens that include fluoroquinolones are introduced;
- these tests can be used to rule in ethionamide resistance, but not to rule out resistance, because mutations conferring resistance to ethionamide are not limited to the inhA promoter region - they also include ethA, ethR and other genes;
- culture-based phenotypic DST may still be required, particularly among those with a high pretest probability of resistance when the low complexity automated NAATs does not detect drug resistance; in addition, culture-based phenotypic DST:
- remains important to determine resistance to other anti-TB agents, particularly the new and repurposed medicines, and to monitor the emergence of additional drug resistance;
- does not apply to ethionamide because it is unreliable and poorly reproducible;
- for second-line injectable drugs, the panel evaluated the performance in detecting resistance to amikacin only because both kanamycin and capreomycin are no longer recommended for the treatment of DR-TB; and
- culture-based phenotypic DST may be important to confirm amikacin susceptibility in situations where it is appropriate to use this medicine, to balance risk and benefit.
Research priorities for low complexity automated NAATs for detection of resistance to isoniazid and second-line anti-TB agents are as follows:
- diagnostic accuracy, in specific patient populations (e.g. children, people living with HIV, and patients with signs and symptoms of extrapulmonary TB) and in non-sputum samples;
- impact of diagnostic technologies on clinical decision-making and outcomes that are important to patients (e.g. cure, mortality, time to diagnosis and time to start treatment) in all patient populations;
- impact of specific mutations on treatment outcomes among people with DR-TB;
- use, integration and optimization of diagnostic technologies in the overall landscape of testing and care, as well as diagnostic pathways and algorithms;
- economic studies evaluating the costs, cost-effectiveness and cost-benefit of different diagnostic technologies;
- qualitative studies evaluating equity, acceptability, feasibility and end-user values of different diagnostic technologies;
- effect of non-actionable results (indeterminate, non-determinate or invalid) on diagnostic accuracy and outcomes that are important to patients;
- evaluation of low complexity automated NAATs for initial TB detection, in addition to its use as a follow-on test, in all people with signs and symptoms of TB, in children and in people living with HIV; and
- the potential utility of katG resistance detection to identify MDR-TB clones that may be missed because they do not have an RRDR mutation (e.g. the Eswatini MDR-TB clone, which has both the katG S315T and the non-RRDR rpoB I491F mutation).
¹⁷ Kanamycin and capreomycin are not to be included in the treatment of MDR/RR-TB patients on longer regimens. Conditional recommendation, very low certainty in the estimates of effect.