SETTING: The expansion of culture has been proposed to aid tuberculosis (TB) control in developing countries.
OBJECTIVES: To examine the cost and cost-effectiveness at the Zambian National TB Reference Laboratory of homemade and commercially produced Löwenstein-Jensen culture (HLJ and CLJ) as well as automated and manually read liquid culture (AMGIT and MMGIT).
DESIGN: Costs were estimated from the provider's perspective and based on the average monthly throughput. Cost-effectiveness estimates were based on yield during the study period.
RESULTS: All techniques show comparable costs per culture (between US$28 and $32). Costs per Mycobacterium tuberculosis specimen detected were respectively US$197, $202, $312 and $340 for MMGIT, AMGIT, CLJ and HLJ. When modelled for the maximum throughput, costs were above US$95 per M. tuberculosis specimen detected for all techniques. When only performed among smear-negative specimens, costs per additionally identified M. tuberculosis would be US$487 for MMGIT and higher for other methods.
CONCLUSION: Based on cost-effectiveness grounds, liquid media compare well with conventional solid media, especially where yield of MGIT is substantially higher than that of LJ media. The results indicate high overall costs per culture; the expansion of culture to decentralised levels with lower throughputs may result in even higher costs.
International Journal of Tuberculosis and Lung Disease (2008) 12 (10) 1196-1202