Original Research: A comparative evaluation of three methods for the rapid diagnosis of cryptococcal meningitis (CM) among HIV-infected patients in Northern Malawi

Master Chisale: Mzuzu Central Hospital, Ministry of Health, Mzuzu, Malawi


Cryptococcal meningitis (CM) is the most common systemic fungal infection in patients with HIV infection. Rapid diagnosis and timely initiation of antifungal therapy are key to reducing mortality rate associated with CM. This study aims to evaluate the ability of four different diagnostic tests (Gram stain, India ink, and two types of commercial lateral flow assay [LFA]) to identify CM-positive patients and to compare the sensitivity and specificity of these tests.
This was a prospective cross-sectional study on diagnostic tests accuracy conducted in Northern Malawi. The target population was HIV-infected adult patients presenting with features of meningitis. Four types of diagnostic tests were conducted: India ink, Gram stain, and two types of commercial lateral flow assay (LFA) (Immy, Inc., OK, USA and Dynamiker Biotechnology (Tianjin) Co., Ltd), Singapore). Culture was conducted as the reference standard.
A total of 265 samples were collected. The rate of positive CM detection ranged from 6.4% (using India ink) to 14.3% (using LFA). India ink exhibited the lowest sensitivity of 54.8% (95% confidence interval [CI]: 36.0%–72.7%), followed by Gram stain (61.3%; 95% CI: 42.2%–78.2%). The Dynamiker LFA exhibited the highest sensitivity of 100.0% (95% CI: 90.0%–100.0%) but a lower specificity (97.0%; 93.9%–98.8%) compared to the Immy LFA (98.3%; 95% CI: 95.7%–99.5%).
LFA diagnostic methods have the potential to double the detection rate of CM-positive patients in resource-limited countries such as Malawi. As such, LFAs should be considered to become the main diagnostic tests used for CM diagnostics in these countries. Our data indicate that LFAs may be the best method for diagnosing CM and exhibits the highest diagnostic accuracy as it has shown that it outperforms cell culture, the current gold standard.

Journal Identifiers

eISSN: 1995-7262
print ISSN: 1995-7262

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