A systematic review was conducted to identify studies with data for statistical meta-analyses of sensitivity (Se) and specificity (Sp) of ante-mortem and post-mortem diagnostic tests for bovine tuberculosis (bTB) in cattle. Members of a working group (WG) developed and tested search criteria and developed a standardised two-stage review process, to identify primary studies with numerator and denominator data for test performance and an agreed range of covariate data. No limits were applied to year, language, region or type of test in initial searches of electronic databases. In stage 1, titles and available abstracts were reviewed. References that complied with stage 1 selection criteria were reviewed in entirety and agreed data were extracted from references that complied with stage 2 selection criteria. At stage 1, 9782 references were reviewed and 261 (2.6%) passed through to stage 2 where 215 English language references were each randomly allocated to two of 18 WG reviewers and 46 references in other languages were allocated to native speakers. Agreement regarding eligibility between reviewers of the same reference at stage 2 was moderate (Kappa statistic = 0.51) and a resolution procedure was conducted. Only 119 references (published 1934-2009) were identified with eligible performance estimates for one or more of 14 different diagnostic test types; despite a comprehensive search strategy and the global impact of bTB. Searches of electronic databases for diagnostic test performance data were found to be nonspecific with regard to identifying references with diagnostic test Se or Sp data. Guidelines for the content of abstracts to research papers reporting diagnostic test performance are presented. The results of meta-analyses of the sensitivity and specificity of the tests, and of an evaluation of the methodological quality of the source references, are presented in accompanying papers (Nuñez-Garcia et al., 2017; Downs et al., 2017).
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