The Open Public Health Journal

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Indicators of Adrenal Insufficiency in TB-suspect Patients Presenting with Signs and Symptoms of Adrenal Insufficiency at Three South African Hospitals in Pretoria

Langalibalele H. Mabuza1, *, Daniel F. Sarpong2
1 Department of Family Medicine & Primary Health Care, School of Medicine, Sefako Makgatho Health Sciences University, Pretoria, South Africa
2 Center for Health and Health Disparities Research and Education (CMHDRE), Division of Clinical and Administrative Sciences, Xavier University of Louisiana, New Orleans, LA, USA



Primary adrenal insufficiency occurs when the function of the adrenal cortex to produce cortisol is impaired. Infections, such as disseminated Tuberculosis (TB) and malignancies, are the major causes of Adrenal Insufficiency (AI) in developing countries. AI is characterized by specific symptoms, signs, and laboratory findings.


To determine indicators of AI in TB-suspect patients presenting with signs and symptoms of AI.


A cross-sectional study was conducted at the primary health care ward of Dr. George Mukhari Academic Hospital, Jubilee District Hospital, and Odi District Hospital. The population comprised all TB-suspects, from whom a sample of 75respondents was obtained. A researcher administered questionnaire was used to collect data related to their signs, symptoms, and laboratory findings.


Of the 75 respondents, 47 (62.37) and 28 (37.3%) were classified as Adrenal Sufficiency (AS) and AI, respectively. The most occurring symptoms were craving for salt, dry, itchy skin, and vomiting (prevalence: 79.7%, 68.1%, and 69.0%, respectively). Signs or symptoms by themselves did not discriminate persons with a high likelihood of AI. However, a fasting serum glucose (≤ 5.25 mmol/L), a positive GeneXpect, a low CD4 count (≤ 274.5 cells/ml), with a combination of signs and symptoms (9.5) constituted a discriminator for AI in TB-suspect patients (87.5% likelihood).


A low fasting serum glucose, a positive GeneXpect, a low CD4 count with a minimum of ten signs and symptoms constitute a discriminator for AI in TB-suspect patients, necessitating treatment initiation to save patient lives in laboratory resource-limited settings.

Keywords: TB-suspectpatients, Indicators of Adrenal Insufficiency (AI), Adrenal Sufficiency (AS), Signs and symptoms burden index, Serum cortisol, Addison’s disease.

Article Information

Identifiers and Pagination:

Year: 2020
Volume: 13
First Page: 178
Last Page: 187
Publisher Id: TOPHJ-13-178
DOI: 10.2174/1874944502013010178

Article History:

Received Date: 10/12/2019
Revision Received Date: 18/03/2020
Acceptance Date: 29/03/2020
Electronic publication date: 23/05/2020
Collection year: 2020

© 2020 Mabuza and Sarpong.

open-access license: This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International Public License (CC-BY 4.0), a copy of which is available at: This license permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.

* Address correspondence to this author at the Department of Family Medicine & Primary Health Care, School of Medicine, Sefako Makgatho Health Sciences University, Pretoria, South Africa; Tel: +27649060887; E-mail:

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