Cryptococcal antigen positivity combined with the percentage of HIV-seropositive samples with CD4 counts <100 cells/μl identifies districts in South Africa with advanced burden of disease
Public Library of Science (PLoS) -- PLOS ONE
DOI 10.1371/journal.pone.0198993


Cryptococcal meningitis (CM) is an opportunistic fungal disease with a high mortality among HIV-positive patients with severe immunosuppression (CD4 count <100 cells/μl). Reflexed screening for cryptococcal antigen (CrAg) in remnant blood samples was initially piloted at selected CD4 testing laboratories of the National Health Laboratory Service (NHLS) prior to the implementation of a national screening programme using a lateral flow assay (LFA) (IMMY, Norman, OK, USA). The aim of this study was to assess CrAg positivity nationally, per province and district in combination with the percentage of CD4 samples tested with a CD4 count <100 cells/μl to identify areas with advanced HIV/CrAg disease burden.


CrAg and CD4 laboratory result data were extracted from the NHLS corporate data warehouse. Monthly test volumes were used to assess CrAg test volumes and coverage, while bubble charts were used to display the relationship between CD4 <100 cells/μl, CrAg positivity and number of positive CrAg samples by district. ArcGIS software was used to spatially report CrAg positivity.


CrAg screening coverage was stable at around 96% after November 2016. Samples with a CD4 <100 cell/μl and CrAg positivity were also stable over the study period at 10% and ~5% respectively. The highest CrAg positivity was reported for the Kwa-Zulu Natal province (7.3%), which also had the lowest percentage of samples with a CD4 <100 cells/μl (7.2%). Uthungulu and Umkhanyakude districts had the highest CrAg positivity (9.3% and 8.9% respectively). Ethekwini and Johannesburg Metro districts contributed to 22% of the total number of CrAg-positive samples tested across South Africa for the period reported.


Existing CD4 testing services were used to rapidly scale up CrAg reflex testing in South Africa. Districts with advanced HIV and CrAg disease burden were identified that need further investigation of patient management interventions.