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Free Content Chapter 1: Introduction and diagnosis of tuberculosis in children [Official Statement. Guidance for National Tuberculosis Programmes on the management of tuberculosis in children. Chapter 1 in the series]

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About one million children develop tuberculosis (TB) annually worldwide, accounting for about 11% of all TB cases. Children with TB differ from adults in their immunological and pathophysiological response in ways that may have important implications for the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of TB in children. There is an urgent need to improve the diagnosis and management of children with TB, and the prevention of TB in children, by ensuring their inclusion under the implementation of the Stop TB strategy by National TB Programmes. Critical areas for further research include a better understanding of the epidemiology of childhood TB, vaccine development, the development of better diagnostic techniques, new drug development, and the optimal formulations and dosing of first- and second-line TB drugs in children.

Specifically regarding the diagnosis of TB in children, this relies on a careful and thorough assessment of all the evidence derived from a careful history, clinical examination and relevant investigations, e.g., tuberculin skin test, chest radiograph and sputum smear microscopy. Although bacteriological confirmation of TB is not always possible, it should be sought whenever possible, e.g., by sputum microscopy in children with suspected pulmonary TB who are old enough to produce a sputum sample. A trial of treatment with TB medications is not generally recommended as a method to diagnose TB in children. New, improved diagnostic tests are urgently needed.
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Keywords: children; diagnosis; tuberculosis

Document Type: Miscellaneous

Affiliations: World Health Organization, Geneva, Switzerland

Publication date: 01 October 2006

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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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