Context: Improving detection of pediatric tuberculosis (TB) is critical to reducing morbidity and mortality among children.
Objective: We conducted a systematic review to estimate the number of children needed to screen (NNS) to detect a single case of active TB using different active case finding (ACF) screening approaches and across different settings.
Data sources: We searched 4 databases (PubMed, Embase, Scopus, and the Cochrane Library) for articles published from November 2010 to February 2020.
Study selection: We included studies of TB ACF in children using symptom-based screening, clinical indicators, chest x-ray, and Xpert.
Data extraction: We indirectly estimated the weighted mean NNS for a given modality, location, and population using the inverse of the weighted prevalence. We assessed risk of bias using a modified AXIS tool.
Results: We screened 27 221 titles and abstracts, of which we included 31 studies of ACF in children < 15 years old. Symptom-based screening was the most common screening modality (weighted mean NNS: 257 [range, 5-undefined], 19 studies). The weighted mean NNS was lower in both inpatient (216 [18-241]) and outpatient (67 [5-undefined]) settings (107 [5-undefined]) compared with community (1117 [28-5146]) and school settings (464 [118-665]). Risk of bias was low.
Limitations: Heterogeneity in the screening modalities and populations make it difficult to draw conclusions.
Conclusions: We identified a potential opportunity to increase TB detection by screening children presenting in health care settings. Pediatric TB case finding interventions should incorporate evidence-based interventions and local contextual information in an effort to detect as many children with TB as possible.