Background: Associate investigation, defined as screening the contacts of children with positive tuberculin skin tests (TST) and normal chest radiographs, has been recommended to improve case finding for active tuberculosis (TB). The success of this strategy has not been adequately studied in either adults or children.
Methods: A 2-year prospective study was conducted wherein 187 children and adolescents with infection caused by Mycobacterium tuberculosis (positive TST and normal chest radiograph) were referred to a TB Screening Clinic. An associate investigation was performed among their 659 household contacts who were interviewed to assess risk factors for TB and screened with TSTs and with chest radiographs when appropriate.
Results: No cases of active TB were detected, but 32% of household contacts had TSTs > or = 10 mm and were candidates for preventive therapy. Logistic regression analysis revealed that household contacts with Calmette-Guérin bacillus immunization and foreign birth were 2.26 and 3.92 times more likely (P < 0.001 and 0.002, respectively) to be tuberculin-positive. Univariate analysis of the 187 households revealed that the following risk factors present in a household member were associated with detecting a household contact with a positive TST: Calmette-Guérin bacillus immunization (P = 0.001), foreign birth (P = 0.017) and a history of having hosted foreign visitors (P = 0.032).
Conclusion: In this Hispanic immigrant population, primarily from the Dominican Republic, screening household contacts of children with positive TSTs did not identify new cases of active TB. However, this strategy did identify household contacts who were eligible for preventive therapy.