Setting: Between October 1992 and February 1994, 33 cases of multidrug-resistant tuberculosis (MDR-TB) were diagnosed among patients infected by the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) and hospitalised in an HIV ward in Milan, Italy. This outbreak was part of a much larger outbreak, begun in another hospital and probably transferred through a patient.
Objective: To evaluate risk factors for transmission and the effectiveness of infection control measures.
Design: 1) Active follow-up of exposed patients, 2) cohort study among HIV-infected patients exposed to MDR-TB cases before and after the implementation of control measures, 3) screening of close contacts of MDR-TB cases, and 4) molecular typing by restriction fragment length polymorphism (RFLP) analysis.
Results: The risk of MDR-TB was higher in patients with lower CD4+ lymphocyte percentages and longer duration of exposure. No difference in the daily risk was observed for in-patients vs day-hospital patients or by room distance from an infectious case. Of the 90 patients exposed before the implementation of infection control measures (i.e., October 1992-June 1993) 26 (28.9%) developed MDR-TB, whereas none of the 44 patients exclusively exposed after implementation developed MDR-TB, despite the continuing presence of infectious MDR-TB cases in the ward.
Conclusion: Simple control measures were effective in significantly reducing nosocomial transmission among patients.