Screening for tuberculosis (TB) in Britain is failing to detect most imported cases of latent disease. This suggests the need that screening should be widened to include more people from the Indian subcontinent. The current screening policy is missing 70% of imported latent TB cases.
The current British border policies require immigrants to have a chest X-ray on arrival to check for active TB. This policy is applicable for people hailing from countries with a TB incidence higher than 40 per 100,000 people and covers African countries but has excluded Asian countries like India, Pakistan and Bangladesh. It has been seen that only 0.01% immigrants have active TB on arrival. Majority of them are carriers of the latent disease and within few years of their arrival in Britain it progresses to active TB.
AdvertisementDemographic and test result data from 2008 to 2010 at 3 immigrant screening centers in Britain were analyzed to check the efficacy of the screening. For detecting latent tuberculosis researchers used a highly specific blood test called an interferon-gamma release assay (IGRA). The results showed that 20% of recent immigrants from the Indian sub-continent and almost 30% from sub-Saharan Africa are carriers of latent TB.
The study is published in The Lancet Infectious Diseases journal.