Evaluating UK National Guidance for Screening of Children for Tuberculosis. A Prospective Multicenter Study

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Abstract

Rationale:

To identify infected contacts of tuberculosis (TB) cases, the UK National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) recommended the addition of IFN-γ release assays (IGRA) to the tuberculin skin test (TST) in its 2006 TB guidelines. Treatment for TB infection was no longer recommended for children who screened TST-positive but IGRA-negative.

Objectives:

We performed a cohort study to evaluate the risk of TB disease in this group.

Methods:

Children exposed to an infectious case of TB in their household were recruited from 11 pediatric TB clinics. TST and IGRA were performed at baseline, with IGRA repeated at 8 weeks and TST repeated if initially negative. Children were treated according to 2006 NICE guidelines and followed for 24 months.

Measurements and Main Results:

Of 431 recruited children, 392 completed the study. We diagnosed 48 (12.2%) cases of prevalent TB disease, 105 (26.8%) with TB infection, and 239 (60.9%) without TB infection or disease. Eighteen children aged 2 years and above had a positive TST but persistently negative IGRA. None received TB infection treatment and none developed TB disease. Ninety (26.1%) children qualified for TB infection treatment according to 2006 NICE guidelines. In contrast, 147 (42.7%) children would have qualified under revised NICE guidance, issued in 2016.

Conclusions:

In this low-prevalence setting we saw no incident cases of TB disease in children who were TST-positive but IGRA-negative and did not receive treatment for TB infection. Following the latest NICE guidance, significantly more children will require medication.

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