Clustering of Mycobacterium tuberculosis strains from foreign-born patients in Korea

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Information on drug resistance and transmission patterns of tuberculosis (TB) in foreign-born patients is lacking in Asia where immigration is increasing. We examined the drug-resistance profiles of 288 Mycobacterium tuberculosis isolates from foreign-born patients in South Korea, and assessed for potential transmission in the host country by analysing their IS6110 genotypes, as well as those of 4780 strains from native Korean TB patients. The prevalence of multidrug-resistant (MDR) TB was 9.7 % and 42 % among new and previously treated patients, respectively. Chinese nationality was associated with MDR TB (ORChina=3.0, 95 % CI 1.1–9.3). Of the 288 strains, 51 (17.7 %) formed 31 clusters, of which 22 were identical to strains from native Koreans. A number of strains belonged to the K family, subtypes known to occur endemically in Korea. MDR TB was common, and clustering patterns showed potential cross-cultural transmission among foreign-born TB patients. Further molecular epidemiological studies of all isolates in the area are needed to determine the extent of international TB transmission in Asia.

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