OBJECTIVE: To investigate the potency of a hand-held point-of-care electronic-nose to diagnose pulmonary tuberculosis (PTB) among those suspected of PTB.
METHODS: Setting: Lung clinics and Dr. Sardjito Hospital, Yogyakarta, Indonesia. Participants: patients with suspected PTB and healthy controls. Sampling: 5 minutes exhaled breath. Sputum-smear-microscopy, culture, chest-radiography, and follow-up for 1.5-2.5 years, were used to classify patients with suspected PTB as active PTB, probably active PTB, probably no PTB, and no PTB. After building a breath model based on active PTB, no PTB, and healthy controls (Calibration phase), we validated the model in all patients with suspected PTB (Validation phase). In each variable (sex, age, Body Mass Index, co-morbidities, smoking status, consumption of alcohol, use of antibiotics, flu symptoms, stress, food and drink intake), one stratum's Receiver Operating Characteristic (ROC)-curve indicating sensitivity and specificity of the breath test was compared with another stratum's ROC-curve. Differences between Area-under-the-Curve between strata (p<0.05) indicated an association between the variable and sensitivity-specificity of the breath test. Statistical analysis was performed using STATA/SE 15.
RESULTS: Of 400 enrolled participants, 73 were excluded due to extra-pulmonary TB, incomplete data, previous TB, and cancer. Calibration phase involved 182 subjects, and the result was validated in 287 subjects. Sensitivity was 85% (95%CI: 75-92%) and 78% (95%CI: 70-85%), specificity was 55% (95%CI: 44-65%) and 42% (95%CI: 34-50%), in calibration and validation phases, respectively. Test sensitivity and specificity were lower in men.
CONCLUSION: The electronic-nose showed modest sensitivity and low specificity among patients with suspected PTB. To improve the sensitivity, a larger calibration group needs to be involved. With its portable form, it could be used for TB screening in remote rural areas and health care settings.