Introduction: Several nucleic acid amplification tests (NAATs) for detection of Mycobacterium tuberculosis (TB) complex (MTBC) are available in Taiwan; however, their performances may differ and have not been extensively evaluated. Therefore, we aimed to explore the accuracy of NAATs overall followed by comparison between platforms commonly used in Taiwan. Methods: This study enrolled presumptive pulmonary TB patients with NAATs throughout Taiwan. The diagnostic performance of smear microscopy and NAATs was assessed using sputum culture as a reference standard. To investigate the performance of NAATs in excluding non-tuberculous mycobacteria (NTM), we quantified the false-positive proportion of NAATs in patients infected with NTM. Results: Of the 4126 enrollees, 860 (20.8%) had positive NAATs. The sensitivity and specificity of NAATs were 83.2% and 96.7%, respectively, compared to 81.5% and 55.3% for smear. There was no significant difference in sensitivity between the NAATs and smear; however, the specificity of smear was significantly lower than that of the NAATs [difference 41.4%, 95% confidence interval (CI) 39.6–43.2%]. There was no significant difference in sensitivity among Roche Cobas Amplicor Mycobacterium tuberculosis assay (Amplicor), Xpert MTB/RIF assay (Xpert) and in-house polymerase chain reaction (in-house PCR) (82.2% versus 83.8% versus 82.4%); however, in-house PCR was significantly less specific than Amplicor (difference 5.3%, 95% CI 2.4–8.2%) and Xpert (difference 5.8%, 95% CI 3.1–8.5%). The sensitivity of NAATs among smear-negative cases was 33.1% (95% CI 26.0–40.3%). In-house PCR had a significantly higher false-positive rate among specimens that were culture positive for NTM than Amplicor (7.7% versus 0.3%; difference 7.4%, 95% CI 3.4–11.5%) and Xpert (7.7% versus 0.7%; difference 7.0%, 95% CI 2.9–11.0%). Conclusion: The NAATs overall had a relatively high sensitivity and specificity in detecting MTBC while Amplicor and Xpert performed better than in-house PCR in excluding NTM. Our findings will be useful for the development of national policy.
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