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Results of five-year systematic screening for latent tuberculosis infection in healthcare workers in Portugal

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Author(s): Torres Costa José | Silva Rui | Sá Raul | Cardoso Maria | Nienhaus Albert

Journal: Journal of Occupational Medicine and Toxicology
ISSN 1745-6673

Volume: 5;
Issue: 1;
Start page: 22;
Date: 2010;
Original page

ABSTRACT
Abstract Introduction The risk of tuberculosis (TB) in healthcare workers (HCWs) is related to its incidence in the general population, and increased by the specific risk as a professional group. The prevalence of latent tuberculosis infection (LTBI) in HCWs in Portugal using the tuberculin skin test (TST) and the interferon-γ release assays (IGRA) was analyzed over a five-year period. Methods A screening programme for LTBI in HCWs was conducted, with clinical evaluations, TST, IGRA, and chest radiography. Putative risk factors for LTBI were assessed by a standardised questionnaire. Results Between September 2005 and June 2009, 5,414 HCWs were screened. The prevalence of LTBI was 55.2% and 25.9% using a TST ≥ 10 mm or an IGRA test result (QuantiFERON-TB Gold In-Tube) INF-γ ≥0.35 IU/mL as a criterion for LTBI, respectively. In 53 HCWs active TB was diagnosed. The number of HCWs with newly detected active TB decreased from 19 in the first year to 6 in 2008. Risk assessment was poorly related to TST diameter. However, physicians (1.7%) and nurses (1.0%) had the highest rates of active TB. Conclusions LTBI and TB burden among HCWs in Portugal is high. The screening of these professionals to identify HCWs with LTBI is essential in order to offer preventive chemotherapy to those with a high risk of future progression to disease. Systematic screening had a positive impact on the rate of active TB in HCWs either by early case detection or by increasing the awareness of HCWs and therefore the precautions taken by them.

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