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Free Content Childhood tuberculosis in Malawi: nationwide case-finding and treatment outcomes

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SETTING: All 43 non-private hospitals (three central, 21 district and 19 mission) in Malawi that register and treat adult and paediatric TB cases.

OBJECTIVE: To assess the rate, pattern and treatment outcome of childhood TB case notifications in Malawi in 1998.

DESIGN: Retrospective data collection using TB registers, treatment cards and information from health centre registers. Information was collected on number of cases, types of TB and treatment outcomes using standardised definitions.

RESULTS: There were 22982 cases of TB registered in Malawi in 1998, of whom 2739 (11.9%) were children. Children accounted for 1.3% of all case notifications with smear-positive pulmonary TB (PTB), 21.3% with smear-negative PTB and 15.9% with extra-pulmonary TB (EPTB). Estimated rates of TB in children were 78/100000 in those aged less than one year, 83/100000 in those aged 1–4 years and 33/100000 in those aged 5–14 years. A significantly higher proportion of TB cases was diagnosed in central hospitals. Only 45% of children completed treatment. There were high rates of death (17%), default (13%) and unknown treatment outcomes (21%). Treatment outcomes were worse in younger children and in children with smear-negative PTB. Treatment completion was best (76%) and death rates lowest (11%) for the 127 children with smear-positive PTB.

CONCLUSION: Childhood TB is common in Malawi and treatment outcomes are poor. Research should be directed towards improved diagnosis and follow-up of children with TB, and the National TB Programme should support appropriate management of childhood contacts of smear positive PTB cases.

Keywords: Malawi; case finding; childhood tuberculosis; treatment outcomes

Document Type: Regular Paper

Affiliations: 1: National Tuberculosis Control Programme, Community Health Science Unit, Private Bag 65, Lilongwe, Malawi 2: National Tuberculosis Control Programme, Community Health Science Unit, Private Bag 65, Lilongwe, Malawi; and the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine, Liverpool, UK 3: Wellcome Trust Research Laboratories, Blantyre, Malawi, and the Department of Paediatrics, College of Medicine, Blantyre, Malawi 4: Paediatric Department, Lilongwe Central Hospital, Lilongwe, Malawi 5: Department of Paediatrics, College of Medicine, Blantyre, Malawi 6: Stop TB Department, World Health Organization, Geneva, Switzerland

Publication date: 2002-05-01

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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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