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Screening for tuberculosis infection among newly arrived asylum seekers: Comparison of QuantiFERON?TB Gold with tuberculin skin test

DOI: 10.1186/1471-2334-8-65

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The 1000 asylum seekers (age ≥ 18 years) enrolled in the study were voluntarily recruited from 2813 consecutive asylum seekers arriving at the national reception centre from September 2005 to June 2006. Participation included a QFT test and a questionnaire in addition to the mandatory TST and chest X-ray.Among 912 asylum seekers with valid test results, 29% (264) had a positive QFT test whereas 50% (460) tested positive with TST (indurations ≥ 6 mm), indicating a high proportion of latent infection within this group. Among the TST positive participants 50% were QFT negative, whereas 7% of the TST negative participants were QFT positive. There was a significant association between increase in size of TST result and the likelihood of being QFT positive. Agreement between the tests was 71–79% depending on the chosen TST cut-off and it was higher for non-vaccinated individuals.By using QFT in routine screening, further follow-up could be avoided in 43% of the asylum seekers who would have been referred if based only on a positive TST (≥ 6 mm). The proportion of individuals referred will be the same whether QFT replaces TST or is used as a supplement to confirm a positive TST, but the number tested will vary greatly. All three screening approaches would identify the same proportion (88–89%) of asylum seekers with a positive QFT and/or a TST ≥ 15 mm, but different groups will be missed.The incidence of tuberculosis in Norway is generally low (6.3/100 000 population in 2006), but high among immigrants from countries where tuberculosis is endemic [1]. Most cases of tuberculosis are due to imported new strains rather than transmission within Norway [2,3]. WHO have estimated the global prevalence of latent tuberculosis infection in 1997 to be 35% for Africa, 44% for Southeast Asia and 15% for Europe [4]. The enormous pool of persons with latent tuberculosis challenges control of tuberculosis in low endemic countries. National guidelines for prevention and control of tuberculo

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