Screening and treatment for latent tuberculosis infection among asylum seekers entering Switzerland

Swiss Med Wkly. 2002 Apr 20;132(15-16):197-200.


Aim of the study: To evaluate the compliance of doctors and patients with the current recommendations for screening and preventive treatment of immigrants with a positive tuberculin skin test (TST) suggestive of latent tuberculosis infection (LTBI).

Methods: Retrospective cohort study of all asylum seekers entering Switzerland between 1 January 1993 and 31 December 1993 and assigned to the cantons of Aargau, Fribourg, Geneva, Neuchâtel, Valais and Vaud, who underwent a TST at the border. The medical documents of all individuals with a TST size suggestive of LTBI (> or = 10 mm in children <15 years, > or = 18 mm in young adults aged 15-25 years) were reviewed for final diagnosis, therapeutic decision, compliance with treatment if prescribed, and notification for tuberculosis within the next 3 years.

Results: Among 2515 asylum seekers, 172 had a positive TST suggestive of LTBI. The documents of 93 persons were available. The final diagnosis was LTBI in 71 cases, possible tuberculosis in 10 cases, an effect of BCG immunisation in 10 cases, and other diagnoses in 2 cases. Among 82 individuals with normal chest X-ray or no radiological examination, only 37 (46%) received a preventive treatment and one a full course of antituberculosis drugs. Among 11 persons with an abnormal chest X-ray, 2 received a full course of antituberculosis drugs, 7 a preventive therapy and 2 had no treatment prescribed. Among the 44 subjects in whom a preventive treatment was prescribed, 30 adhered to the treatment regimen. One case (without prescribed treatment) was notified for tuberculosis two years after entry.

Conclusions: Compliance of doctors and patients with current recommendations for examination and treatment of immigrants with a TST suggestive of LTBI is unsatisfactory. New guidelines are needed to provide a clearer definition of the indications and explain the benefits of treating LTBI.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Emigration and Immigration*
  • Humans
  • Mass Screening* / legislation & jurisprudence
  • Practice Guidelines as Topic
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Switzerland
  • Tuberculin Test*
  • Tuberculosis / diagnosis*
  • Tuberculosis / prevention & control