Free Content Prevalence of positive tuberculosis skin tests during 5 years of screening in a Swiss remand prison

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BACKGROUND: Tuberculosis (TB) screening in prisons is recommended, but the appropriate methods remain controversial. Studies evaluating screening in remand prisons are scarce.

METHOD: Between 1997 and 2001, voluntary screening based on the tuberculin skin test (TST) was offered to all prisoners on entry into the largest remand prison in Switzerland. Prisoners with positive results underwent chest X-rays. We analysed this information collected in an anonymous database.

RESULTS: A total of 4890 prisoners entered the prison and were eligible for screening; 3779 (77.3%) had TST performed on average 9 days after arrival: 46.9% were positive (induration ≥ 10 mm). Positive TST rates were similar over the 5 years. Women were more likely to have a negative TST (60.4%) than men (47.7%; P < 0.001, Pearson's 2 16.5). Positive TSTs varied according to the prisoner's country of origin (64% for sub-Saharan Africa, 57% for Eastern Europe, 56% for North Africa, 51% for Asia and 34% for North and West Europe).

CONCLUSION: The percentage of TST-positive subjects was high, and most did not receive preventive treatment for latent TB. The usefulness of systematic TST for all prisoners on entry is limited, as diagnosis of TB disease usually remains the priority in prisons.

Keywords: prison; screening; tuberculin skin test

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: University Centre of Legal Medicine of Geneva and Lausanne, Geneva, Switzerland

Publication date: January 1, 2012

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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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