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Open Access Evaluation of tuberculin skin testing in tuberculosis contacts in Victoria, Australia, 2005–2013

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Aim: To review the programmatic use of the tuberculin skin test (TST) following tuberculosis (TB) exposure in Victoria, Australia.

Methods: A retrospective review of data collected for public health surveillance was performed to identify contact demographic factors, including bacille Calmette-Guérin (BCG) status and age and outcomes of TST.

Results: Contact tracing was performed for 15 094 people, of whom 13 427 (89.0%) had a TST performed. The TST was positive in 31.4% (95%CI 30.6–32.2) of all contacts, and 48.8% of contacts born outside of Australia. Amongst contacts who were TST-negative at baseline, the conversion rate following exposure was 14.8%. Conversion was most common in those aged 45–54 years, with <12% positivity in both the youngest (<5 years) and oldest (65 years) age groups. Active TB developed in 1.1% of all contacts. Contacts aged <5 years had the highest risk of developing active TB following exposure (3.8%), while low risk was seen in those aged 65 years (0.3%).

Conclusion: Overall, contact tracing and TST in this setting appear to yield a high proportion of people at risk for the development of active TB. The yield of testing in some groups, particularly those aged 65 years, was low, and investigation of alternative strategies should be considered.
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Keywords: bacille Calmette-Guérin; latent tuberculous infection; public health; screening

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: Victorian Tuberculosis Program, Melbourne Health, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia 2: Communicable Disease Epidemiology and Surveillance, Health Protection, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia 3: Victorian Tuberculosis Program, Melbourne Health, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia, Department of Microbiology and Immunology, University of Melbourne, Parkville, Victoria, Australia

Publication date: September 21, 2015

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  • Public Health Action (PHA), The Union's quarterly open access on-line journal, provides a platform for its mission 'Health solutions for the poor'. PHA addresses the need for show-casing operational research that addresses issues in health systems and services. It publishes high-quality scientific research that provides new knowledge to improve access, equity, quality and efficiency of health systems and services.

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