BackgroundThe incidence of tuberculosis (TB) in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) is 323/100,000. A context of civil conflict, internally displaced people and mining activities suggests a higher regional TB incidence in North Kivu. Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) supports the General Reference Hospital of Masisi, North Kivu, covering a population of 520,000, with an elevated rate of pediatric malnutrition. In July 2017, an adapted MSF pediatric TB diagnostic algorithm, including Xpert MTB/RIF on gastric aspirates (GAs), was implemented. The aim of this study was to evaluate whether the introduction of this clinical pediatric TB diagnostic algorithm influenced the number of children started on TB treatment.MethodsWe performed a retrospective analysis of pediatric TB cases started on treatment in the inpatient therapeutic feeding centre (ITFC) and the pediatric ward. We compared data collected in the second half (July to December) of 2016 (before introduction of the new diagnostic algorithm) and the second half of 2017. For the outcome variables the difference between the two years was calculated by a Pearson Chi-square test.ResultsIn 2017, 94 GAs were performed, compared to none in 2016. Twelve percent (11/94) of samples were Xpert MTB/RIF positive. Sixty-eight children (2.9% of total exits) aged between 3 months and 15 years started TB treatment in 2017, compared to 19 (1.4% of total exits) in 2016 (p 0.002). The largest increase in pediatric TB diagnoses in 2017 occurred in patients with a negative Xpert MTB/RIF result, but clinically highly suggestive of TB according to the newly introduced diagnostic algorithm. Fifty-two (3.1%) children under five years old started treatment in 2017, as compared to 14 (1.3%) in 2016 (p 0.004). The increase was less pronounced and not statistically significant in older patients: sixteen children (2.6%) above 5 years old started TB treatment in 2017 as compared to five (1.3%) in 2016 (p 0.17).ConclusionAfter the introduction of an adapted clinical pediatric TB diagnostic algorithm, including Xpert MTB/RIF on gastric aspirates, we observed a significant increase in the number of children – especially under 5 years old – started on TB treatment, mostly on clinical grounds. Increased ‘clinician awareness’ of pediatric TB likely played an important role.