Journal Article

Review of False-Positive Cultures for <i>Mycobacterium tuberculosis</i> and Recommendations for Avoiding Unnecessary Treatment

William J. Burman and Randall R. Reves

in Clinical Infectious Diseases

Published on behalf of Infectious Diseases Society of America

Volume 31, issue 6, pages 1390-1395
Published in print December 2000 | ISSN: 1058-4838
Published online December 2000 | e-ISSN: 1537-6591 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1086/317504
Review of False-Positive Cultures for Mycobacterium tuberculosis and Recommendations for Avoiding Unnecessary Treatment

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We reviewed reports of false-positive cultures for Mycobacterium tuberculosis and here propose guidelines for detecting and managing patients with possible false-positive cultures. Mechanisms of false-positive cultures included contamination of clinical devices, clerical errors, and laboratory cross-contamination. False-positive cultures were identified in 13 (93%) of the 14 studies that evaluated ⩾100 patients; the median false-positive rate was 3.1% (interquartile range, 2.2%–10.5%). Of the 236 patients with false-positive cultures reported in sufficient detail, 158 (67%) were treated, some of whom had toxicity from therapy, as well as unnecessary hospitalizations, tests, and contact investigations. Having a single positive culture was a sensitive but nonspecific criterion for detecting false-positive cultures. False-positive cultures for M. tuberculosis are not rare but are infrequently recognized by laboratory and clinical personnel. Laboratories and tuberculosis control programs should develop procedures to identify patients having only 1 positive culture. Such patients should be further evaluated for the possibility of a false-positive culture.

Journal Article.  4855 words. 

Subjects: Infectious Diseases ; Immunology ; Public Health and Epidemiology ; Microbiology

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