Testing for tuberculosis has revealed that nearly 40% of the doctors in one Russian city have latent infection, with even higher levels in those who work in TB clinics. The research has been published in PLoS Medicine.
TB disease is a growing problem worldwide. Russia is one country where it is particularly common. Although up to a third of the world's population are infected with the bacterium that causes the disease, in most people the infection remains 'latent'. It is important to detect latent infection in order to reduce the spread of the infection and to hold back the rise in the number of active cases.
Working in Samara City in the Russian Federation, researchers from Queen Mary College, UK and colleagues in Samara, tested both health workers and students for latent TB. All the health staff, including students, were found to have higher rates of infection than other people in Samara. The 47% infection rate found in staff in TB clinics was ten times higher than that in the population at large.
The study authors say that, although more research is first needed, it may be necessary to conduct regular occupational health screening for latent infection followed by treatment where appropriate. However, even this may not be effective in controlling rates of active infection, as resistance to TB drugs is so common.
Note: The test used by the researchers was not the 'traditional' tuberculin skin test, as this is not reliable when used with people who were given the 'BCG' vaccination for TB early in life, which is common in Russia as in many other countries. The new 'IFN-gamma' test gave good results and the researchers recommend that it be used in further research of this kind.
Citation: Drobniewski F, Balabanova Y, Zakamova E, Nikolayevskyy V, Fedorin I (2007) Rates of latent tuberculosis in health care staff in Russia. PLoS Med 4(2): e55. (http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.0040055)
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