Rapid diagnostic tests for typhoid and paratyphoid (enteric) fever

Lalith Wijedoru1, Sue Mallett2, Christopher M Parry1

1. Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine, Department of Clinical Sciences, Liverpool, UK
2. University of Birmingham, Institute of Applied Health Sciences, Birmingham, UK

Wijedoru L, Mallett S, Parry CM. Rapid diagnostic tests for typhoid and paratyphoid (enteric) fever. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews 2017, Issue 5. Art. No.: CD008892. DOI: 10.1002/14651858.CD008892.pub2.

Access the full-text article here: http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/14651858.CD008892.pub2/full

The accuracy of rapid diagnostic tests for detecting typhoid and paratyphoid (enteric) fever

Cochrane researchers assessed the accuracy of commercially-available rapid diagnostic tests and their prototypes (including TUBEX, Typhidot, Typhidot-M, Test-it Typhoid, and other tests) for detecting typhoid and paratyphoid (enteric) fever in people living in countries where the estimated number of individuals with the disease at any one time is greater than 10 per 100,000 population. If accurate, they could replace the current World Health Organization (WHO)-recommended diagnostic test: culture (growing the bacteria that causes the infection from a patient’s blood or bone marrow).


Typhoid fever and paratyphoid fever are infections caused by the bacteria Salmonella Typhi and Salmonella Paratyphi A respectively. The term ‘enteric fever’ is used to describe both infections. Enteric fever can be difficult to diagnose as the signs and symptoms are similar to those of other infectious diseases that cause fever such as malaria.

The recommended test to confirm if a person has enteric fever is to grow the Salmonella from their blood. It takes at least 48 hours to give a result, so cannot help healthcare workers make a diagnosis the same day the blood culture is taken. Blood cultures may give a negative result even though a person has enteric fever. The test also requires a laboratory and trained staff, which are often unavailable in communities where enteric fever is common.

Rapid diagnostic tests (RDTs) are designed to be easy to use, and to deliver a quick result without the need for a blood culture laboratory. The cost of an enteric fever RDT would be significantly less than a blood culture, and requires less training to perform.

Study characteristics

Cochrane researchers searched the available literature up to 4 March 2016 and included 37 studies. Most studies recruited participants from South Asia. Most participants were adults, with 22 studies including children. All of the RDTs evaluated detected Salmonella Typhi (typhoid fever) only.

Quality of the evidence

The Cochrane researchers evaluated the quality of the data for each study using a standardized checklist called QUADAS-2. High quality studies that compared different types of RDT in the same patients were few in number. Two-thirds of the included studies did not evaluate the RDTs in the context of patients who are typically tested for the disease. Many studies utilized a particular study design (a case control study) which risks overestimating RDT accuracy. In the studies evaluating the Typhidot RDT, it was often unclear how many test results were indeterminate, when the test cannot distinguish a current episode of infection from a previous disease episode. Overall, the certainty of the evidence in the studies that evaluated enteric fever RDTs was low.

Key results

Sensitivity indicates the percentage of patients with a positive test result who are correctly diagnosed with disease. Specificity indicates the percentage of patients who are correctly identified as not having disease. TUBEX showed an average sensitivity of 78% and specificity of 87%. Typhidot studies, grouped together to include Typhidot, Typhidot-M, and TyphiRapid-Tr02, showed an average sensitivity of 84% and specificity of 79%. When Typhidot studies with clear reporting of indeterminate results are considered, the average sensitivity and specificity of Typhidot was 78% and 77% respectively. Test-It Typhoid and prototypes (KIT) showed an average sensitivity of 69% and specificity of 90%.

Based on these results, in 1000 patients with fever where 30% (300 patients) have enteric fever, we would expect Typhidot tests reporting indeterminate results or where tests do not produce indeterminate results to, on average, miss the diagnosis (give a false negative result) in 66 patients with enteric fever, TUBEX to miss 66, and Test-It Typhoid and prototypes (KIT) to miss 93. In the 700 people without enteric fever, the number of people incorrectly given a diagnosis of enteric fever (a false positive result) would be on average 161 with these Typhidot tests, 91 with TUBEX, and 70 with the Test-It Typhoid and prototypes (KIT). These differences in the number of false negative and false positive results in patients from the different tests are not statistically important. The RDTs evaluated are not sufficiently accurate to replace blood culture as a diagnostic test for enteric fever.