Background: Bacteriologically-confirmed tuberculosis (TB) cases used in calculating TB prevalence in a country are obtained through laboratory examination of sputum specimens. Objective: This article describes laboratory processing of specimens, results overview, conclusions and key lessons learnt from the perspective of laboratory personnel involved in the conduct of TB disease prevalence survey in Ghana in 2013. Methods: Symptoms screening and Chest X-ray suggestive of TB were used to select participants who produced sputum to confirm TB cases using microscopy, culture and Xpert® MTB/RIF assay (GeneXpert). Results: A total of 15,935 single and paired sputum specimens were received from eligible participants. About half of Ziehl-Nielsen (129/263) and Auramine O (122/246) stained smear positives were scanty positive. Culture positivity rate for Mycobacterium tuberculosis complex was 266/14,994 (1.7%) and 100/15,179 (0.7%) in Mycobacterial Growth Indicator Tube (MGIT) and Lowenstein-Jensen (LJ) media respectively; while non-tuberculous mycobacterium was 294/14,994 (1.96%) and 167/15,179 (1.1%). Total contamination rates in MGIT (5.4%) were higher than in LJ (1.7%). Prevalence of smear positive TB and bacteriologically confirmed TB among adult population (≥15 years) was estimated at 111 (95% CI: 76 - 145) and 356 (95% CI: 288 - 425) per 100,000 population respectively. Conclusions and Lessons Learnt: Direct supervision of specimen collection by well-trained laboratory personnel, timely transportation of specimens from field to laboratory, prompt specimen processing and use of electronic data management systems are essential for a reliable TB disease prevalence survey data. More importantly, strengthening human and logistical capacity of the laboratory must be of utmost priority.
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