Use of verbal autopsy to determine underlying cause of death during treatment of multidrug-resistant Tuberculosis, India

Of patients with multidrug-resistant tuberculosis (MDR TB), <50% complete treatment. Most treatment failures for patients with MDR TB are due to death during TB treatment. We sought to determine the proportion of deaths during MDR TB treatment attributable to TB itself. We used a structured verbal autopsy tool to interview family members of patients who died during MDR TB treatment in India during January–December 2016. A committee triangulated information from verbal autopsy, death certificate, or other medical records available with the family members to ascertain the underlying cause of death. For 66% of patient deaths (47/71), TB was the underlying cause of death. We assigned TB as the underlying cause of death for an additional 6 patients who died of suicide and 2 of pulmonary embolism. Deaths during TB treatment signify program failure; accurately determining the cause of death is the first step to designing appropriate, timely interventions to prevent premature deaths.

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