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Target prioritization and strategy selection for active case-finding of pulmonary tuberculosis: a tool to support country-level project planning

Nobuyuki Nishikiori12* and Catharina Van Weezenbeek1

Author Affiliations

1 World Health Organization, Regional Office for the Western Pacific, Manila, Philippines

2 Stop TB and Leprosy Elimination, Division of Combating Communicable Diseases, Regional Office for the Western Pacific, World Health Organization, United Nations Avenue, Manila, Philippines

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BMC Public Health 2013, 13:97  doi:10.1186/1471-2458-13-97

Published: 2 February 2013



Despite the progress made in the past decade, tuberculosis (TB) control still faces significant challenges. In many countries with declining TB incidence, the disease tends to concentrate in vulnerable populations that often have limited access to health care. In light of the limitations of the current case-finding approach and the global urgency to improve case detection, active case-finding (ACF) has been suggested as an important complementary strategy to accelerate tuberculosis control especially among high-risk populations. The present exercise aims to develop a model that can be used for county-level project planning.


A simple deterministic model was developed to calculate the number of estimated TB cases diagnosed and the associated costs of diagnosis. The model was designed to compare cost-effectiveness parameters, such as the cost per case detected, for different diagnostic algorithms when they are applied to different risk populations. The model was transformed into a web-based tool that can support national TB programmes and civil society partners in designing ACF activities.


According to the model output, tuberculosis active case-finding can be a costly endeavor, depending on the target population and the diagnostic strategy. The analysis suggests the following: (1) Active case-finding activities are cost-effective only if the tuberculosis prevalence among the target population is high. (2) Extensive diagnostic methods (e.g. X-ray screening for the entire group, use of sputum culture or molecular diagnostics) can be applied only to very high-risk groups such as TB contacts, prisoners or people living with human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) infection. (3) Basic diagnostic approaches such as TB symptom screening are always applicable although the diagnostic yield is very limited. The cost-effectiveness parameter was sensitive to local diagnostic costs and the tuberculosis prevalence of target populations.


The prioritization of appropriate target populations and careful selection of cost-effective diagnostic strategies are critical prerequisites for rational active case-finding activities. A decision to conduct such activities should be based on the setting-specific cost-effectiveness analysis and programmatic assessment. A web-based tool was developed and is available to support national tuberculosis programmes and partners in the formulation of cost-effective active case-finding activities at the national and subnational levels.