Situating trade-offs: Stakeholder perspectives on overtreatment versus missed diagnosis in transition to Xpert MTB/RIF Ultra in Kenya and Swaziland

Muthoni Mwaura, Kekeletso Kao, Jesse Wambugu, Andre Trollip, Welile Sikhondze, Eunice Omesa, Sindi Dlamini, Nompumelelo Mzizi, Muyalo Dlamini, Busizwe Sibandze, Brian Dlamini, Heidi Albert, Wybo Dondorp, Nora Engel*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Implementing new diagnostics in public health programs can involve difficult trade-off decisions between individual patient benefits and public health considerations. Such decision-making processes are often not documented and may not include engagement of affected communities. This paper examines the perspectives of stakeholders on the trade-off between over-treatment and missed diagnosis captured during decision-making workshops on the transition from use of Xpert MTB/RIF to diagnose tuberculosis to Xpert MTB/RIF Ultra in Kenya and Swaziland. Xpert MTB/RIF Ultra has an overall increase in sensitivity but a decrease in specificity when compared to its predecessor. We conducted a qualitative study using four focus group discussions with a total of 47 participants and non-participant observation. The analysis reveals how participants deemed Xpert MTB/RIF Ultra's reduced specificity vis-a-vis its increased sensitivity to be an acceptable trade-off. The way participants assessed this trade-off was shaped by their experiences with the general uncertainty of all diagnostic tests, alternative testing options, historical evolution of diagnostic practices, epidemiological factors and resource constraints. In assessing the trade-off community and individual benefit and harm was frequently discussed together. Qualitative research on stakeholder engagement activities for diagnostic development and implementation can identify everyday experiences and situate assessments and perspectives of key stakeholders and as such aid in decision-making, improving implementation as well as patient outcomes. Further research is needed on the intended and unintended consequences of such engagement activities, how findings are being incorporated by decision-makers, and the impact on programmatic implementation.

Original languageEnglish
Article number0228669
Number of pages13
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 19 Feb 2020




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