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Cases missed in TB screening

21st April 2011

Researchers have questioned the tuberculosis screening methods for immigrants arriving in the UK.

lungsxray

They say the current screening for TB is missing the majority of cases and using new blood tests for checks would be better than chest x-rays, which detect only active infections.

Writing in the journal Lancet Infectious Disease, the team from Imperial College London team - which analysed more than 1,000 immigrants in London, Leeds and Blackburn – said blood tests could prevent substantial numbers of cases.

Cases of tuberculosis have risen dramatically in the UK in the past 10 years because of increased travel.

Immigrants arriving in the UK from areas where there is a high rate of TB must have a chest x-ray but this can miss dormant cases.

Professor Ajit Lalvani, of Imperial College London, said new blood tests should be used to pick-up such cases.

“By treating people at that early stage, we can prevent them from developing a serious illness and becoming infectious,” he said. “Crucially, this wider screening could substantially reduce TB incidence while remaining cost-effective. Our findings provide the missing evidence-base for the new national strategy to expand immigrant screening.”

The Department of Health said the research backed the latest National Institute for Health and Clinical excellence guidelines which were updated in March but said it expected the local NHS to consider the best ways of tackling this issue in their area.

The British Lung Foundation said over the last 20 years TB cases had fallen in virtually every developed country except the UK where they were rising rapidly.

 

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