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Utility of the Rose Bengal Test as a Point-of-Care Test for Human Brucellosis in Endemic African Settings: A Systematic Review


In endemic African areas, such as Tanzania, Brucella spp. cause human febrile illnesses, which often go unrecognized and misdiagnosed, resulting in delayed diagnosis, underdiagnosis, and underreporting. Although rapid and affordable point-of-care tests, such as the Rose Bengal test (RBT), are available, acceptance and adoption of these tests at the national level are hindered by a lack of local diagnostic performance data. To address this need, evidence on the diagnostic performance of RBT as a human brucellosis point-of-care test was reviewed. The review was initially focused on studies conducted in Tanzania but was later extended to worldwide because few relevant studies from Tanzania were identified. Databases including Web of Science, Embase, MEDLINE, and World Health Organization Global Index Medicus were searched for studies assessing the diagnostic performance of RBT (sensitivity and specificity) for detection of human brucellosis, in comparison to the reference standard culture. Sixteen eligible studies were identified and reviewed following screening. The diagnostic sensitivity (DSe) and specificity (DSp) of RBT compared to culture as the gold standard were 87.5% and 100%, respectively, in studies that used suitable "true positive" and "true negative" patient comparison groups and were considered to be of high scientific quality. Diagnostic DSe and DSp of RBT compared to culture in studies that also used suitable "true positive" and "true negative" patient comparison groups but were considered to be of moderate scientific quality varied from 92.5% to 100% and 94.3 to 99.9%, respectively. The good diagnostic performance of RBT combined with its simplicity, quickness, and affordability makes RBT an ideal (or close to) stand-alone point-of-care test for early clinical diagnosis and management of human brucellosis and nonmalarial fevers in small and understaffed health facilities and laboratories in endemic areas in Africa and elsewhere.

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