The evaluation of the quality of a sputum specimen prior to bacterial culture has been an accepted practice. However, optimal sputum criteria for pulmonary tuberculosis (TB) are not well established. We investigated indicators for sputum acceptability in tuberculosis cultures and acid-fast bacilli (AFB) smear. A post-hoc analysis of a randomized trial with 228 sputum specimens from 77 patients was conducted. In the trial, pulmonary TB suspects were requested for collecting three sputum specimens. We performed both TB study (AFB smear and M. tuberculosis culture) and Gram staining in each specimen. By using generalized estimating equations, the association between sputum characteristics and positive TB testings were analyzed. Although acceptable specimens for bacterial pneumonia showed higher TB-culture positive rates than unacceptable specimens (adjusted odds ratio [aOR] = 1.66; 95% confidence interval [CI] = 1.11-2.49), a specimen with = 25 white blood cells/low-power field was the better predictor for positive M. tuberculosis cultures (aOR = 2.30; 95% CI = 1.48-3.58) and acid-fast bacilli smears (aOR = 1.85; 95% CI = 1.05-3.25). Sputum leukocytosis could be an indicator of sputum acceptability for diagnosing pulmonary tuberculosis.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)733-736
Number of pages4
JournalJournal of Korean Medical Science
Issue number6
StatePublished - 1 Jan 2015


  • Acceptable sputum
  • Sputum WBC
  • Tuberculosis, pulmonary

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