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Free Content Medical students at risk of nosocomial transmission of Mycobacterium tuberculosis

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SETTING: University and teaching hospital in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, a city with a high prevalence of tuberculosis (TB).

OBJECTIVE: To determine whether medical students are at increased risk of nosocomial transmission of Mycobacterium tuberculosis relative to other university students.

DESIGN: A cross-sectional study of medical and chemical engineering students in different levels of their training programmes. Information about socio-demographic characteristics, BCG vaccination history, and potential exposures to TB were obtained using a standardised questionnaire. Tuberculin skin testing (TST) was used to determine the prevalence of infection with TB.

RESULTS: Medical students have an increasing prevalence of TST positivity as they advance in their training programme to increasing levels of study (4.6%, 7.8%, 16.2%, respectively, P < 0.001), but chemical engineering students do not (4.2%, 4.3%, 4.4%, respectively, P = 0.913). The risks are greatest during the years of clinical training, when medical students have increased contact with patients.

CONCLUSIONS: Medical students in this setting may be at increased risk of M. tuberculosis infection, relative to chemical engineering students. A programme of routine tuberculin skin testing is needed, combined with interventions to reduce the risk of nosocomial transmission in the workplace.

Keywords: Brazil; medical students; nosocomial transmission; tuberculosis

Document Type: Regular Paper

Affiliations: 1: Hospital Universitário Clementino Fraga Filho, Universidade Federal do Rio de Janeiro (HUCFF/UFRJ), Rio do Janeiro, Brazil 2: Division of Public Health Biology and Epidemiology, School of Public Health, University of California, Berkeley, California, USA

Publication date: 2000-05-01

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  • The International Journal of Tuberculosis and Lung Disease publishes articles on all aspects of lung health, including public health-related issues such as training programmes, cost-benefit analysis, legislation, epidemiology, intervention studies and health systems research. The IJTLD is dedicated to the continuing education of physicians and health personnel and the dissemination of information on tuberculosis and lung health world-wide.

    Certain IJTLD articles are selected for translation into French, Spanish, Chinese or Russian. They are available on the Union website

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