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Childhood TB diagnosis is challenging. Studies in adults suggest Microscopic Observation Drug Susceptibility (MODS) culture or the Xpert MTB/RIF assay might be used to expand bacteriological diagnosis. However data from children are more limited. We prospectively compared MODS and Xpert MTB/RIF with standard microscopy and culture using the BD MGIT 960 system among 1442 Kenyan children with suspected TB. 97 specimens from 54 children were TB culture-positive: 91 (94%) by MGIT and 74 (76%) by MODS (p = 0.002). 72 (74%) culture-positive and 7 culture-negative specimens were Xpert MTB/RIF positive. Xpert MTB/RIF specificity was 100% (99.7-100%) among 1164 specimens from 892 children in whom TB was excluded, strongly suggesting all Xpert MTB/RIF positives are true positives. The sensitivity of MGIT, MODS and Xpert MTB/RIF was 88%, 71% and 76%, respectively, among all 104 true positive (culture and/or Xpert MTB/RIF positive) specimens. MGIT, MODS and Xpert MTB/RIF on the initial specimen identified 40/51 (78%), 33/51 (65%) and 33/51 (65%) culture-confirmed pulmonary TB cases, respectively; Xpert MTB/RIF detected 5 additional culture-negative cases. The high sensitivity and very high specificity of the Xpert MTB/RIF assay supports its inclusion in the reference standard for bacteriological diagnosis of childhood TB in research and clinical practice.

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