Respiration. 2020 Dec 17:1-5. doi: 10.1159/000509555. Online ahead of print.
In high-burden settings, the diagnosis of pleural tuberculosis (TB) is frequently inferred in patients who present with lymphocyte predominant exudative effusions and high adenosine deaminase (ADA) levels. Two recent small retrospective studies suggested that the lactate dehydrogenase (LDH)/ADA ratio is significantly lower in TB than in non-TB pleural effusions and that the LDH/ADA ratio may be useful in differentiating pleural TB from other pleural exudates. We compared the pleural LDH/ADA ratios, ADA levels, and lymphocyte predominance of a prospectively collected cohort of patients with proven pleural TB (n = 160) to those with a definitive alternative diagnosis (n = 68). The mean pleural fluid LDH/ADA ratio was lower in patients with pleural TB than alternative diagnoses (6.2 vs. 34.3, p < 0.001). The area under the receiver operating characteristic curve was 0.92 (p < 0.001) for LDH/ADA ratio and 0.88 (p < 0.001) for an ADA ≥40 U/L alone. A ratio of ≤12.5 had the best overall diagnostic efficiency, while a ratio of ≤10 had a specificity of 90% and a positive predictive value of 95%, with a sensitivity of 78%, making it a clinically useful "rule in" value for pleural TB in high incidence settings. When comparing the LDH/ADA ratio to an ADA level ≥40 U/L in the presence of a lymphocyte predominant effusion, the latter performed better. When lymphocyte values are unavailable, our data suggest that the LDH/ADA ratio is valuable in distinguishing TB effusions from other pleural exudates.