Setting: Few series of paediatric tuberculosis (TB) have been reported in the last 20 years.
Objective: To describe diagnostic and treatment practices in children with TB living in Seine-Saint-Denis, a low-income Paris suburb.
Methods: Local TB incidence in 1998 was 34.2/100,000 overall and 10.2/100,000 in children. Between September 1996 and December 1997, the hospitals and prevention units serving the area's paediatric population were sent questionnaires to identify TB cases in children aged under 15 living in Seine-Saint-Denis and treated with at least one anti-tuberculosis drug.
Results: Of 92 cases identified, 60 (65%) had been diagnosed during contact tracing; for 52 patients (60%), the index case had been found. The reason for anti-tuberculosis treatment was active TB in 26 (28.3%), latent TB in 46 (50%), and prophylaxis in 20 (21.8%). Forty per cent (37/92) of the patients were aged under 5. Only 15 of the 35 notified cases met the criteria for mandatory notification (at least three anti-tuberculosis drugs).
Conclusion: TB remains a public health problem in Seine-Saint-Denis. The high proportion of cases identified by contact tracing attests to the efficacy of the local contact-tracing programme. The criteria for mandatory notification in France were too restrictive to ensure effective surveillance of childhood TB. Since 2002, notification has included cases of tuberculous infection in children.