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The clinical presentation and detection of tuberculosis during pregnancy and in the postpartum period in low- and middle-income countries: A systematic review and meta-analysis

journal contribution
posted on 2023-09-14, 06:30 authored by Grace Simpson, Moira Philip, Josh VogelJosh Vogel, Michelle JL Scoullar, Stephen M Graham, Alyce N Wilson
For women infected with Mycobacterium tuberculosis, pregnancy is associated with an increased risk of developing or worsening TB disease. TB in pregnancy increases the risk of adverse maternal and neonatal outcomes, however the detection of TB in pregnancy is challenging. We aimed to identify and summarise the findings of studies regarding the clinical presentation and diagnosis of TB during pregnancy and the postpartum period (within 6 months of birth) in low-and middle-income countries (LMICs). A systematic review was conducted searching Ovid MEDLINE, Embase, CINAHL and Global Index Medicus databases. We included any primary research study of women diagnosed with TB during pregnancy or the postpartum period in LMICs that described the clinical presentation or method of diagnosis. Meta-analysis was used to determine pooled prevalence of TB clinical features and health outcomes, as well as detection method yield. Eighty-seven studies of 2,965 women from 27 countries were included. 70.4% of women were from South Africa or India and 44.7% were known to be HIV positive. For 1,833 women where TB type was reported, pulmonary TB was most common (79.6%). Most studies did not report the prevalence of presenting clinical features. Where reported, the most common were sputum production (73%) and cough (68%). Having a recent TB contact was found in 45% of women. Only six studies screened for TB using diagnostic testing for asymptomatic antenatal women and included mainly HIV-positive women ‒ 58% of women with bacteriologically confirmed TB did not report symptoms and only two were in HIV-negative women. Chest X-ray had the highest screening yield; 60% abnormal results of 3036 women tested. Screening pregnant women for TB-related symptoms and risk factors is important but detection yields are limited. Chest radiography and bacteriological detection methods can improve this, but procedures for optimal utilisation remain uncertain in this at-risk population. Trial registration: Prospero registration number: CRD42020202493.



PLOS Global Public Health



Article number





San Francisco, Calif.







Publication classification

C1 Refereed article in a scholarly journal


Iyer VJ




Public Library of Science (PLoS)