Tuberculosis among foreign-born persons in the United States

JAMA. 2008 Jul 23;300(4):405-12. doi: 10.1001/jama.300.4.405.


Context: Foreign-born persons accounted for 57% of all tuberculosis (TB) cases in the United States in 2006. Current TB control strategies have not sufficiently addressed the high levels of TB disease and latent TB infection in this population.

Objective: To determine the risk of TB disease and drug-resistant TB among foreign-born populations and the potential impact of adding TB culture to overseas screening procedures for foreign-born persons entering the United States.

Design, setting, and participants: Descriptive epidemiologic analysis of foreign-born persons in the United States diagnosed with TB from 2001 through 2006.

Main outcome measures: TB case rates, stratified by time since US entry, country of origin, and age at US entry; anti-TB drug-resistance patterns; and characteristics of TB cases diagnosed within 3 months of US entry.

Results: A total of 46,970 cases of TB disease were reported among foreign-born persons in the United States from 2001 through 2006, of which 12,928 (28%) were among recent entrants (within 2 years of US entry). Among the foreign-born population overall, TB case rates declined with increasing time since US entry, but remained higher than among US-born persons--even more than 20 years after arrival. In total, 53% of TB cases among foreign-born persons occurred among the 22% of the foreign-born population born in sub-Saharan Africa and Southeast Asia. Isoniazid resistance was as high as 20% among recent entrants from Vietnam and 18% for recent entrants from Peru. On average, 250 individuals per year were diagnosed with smear-negative, culture-positive TB disease within 3 months of US entry; 46% of these were from the Philippines or Vietnam.

Conclusion: The relative yield of finding and treating latent TB infection is particularly high among individuals from most countries of sub-Saharan Africa and Southeast Asia.

MeSH terms

  • Drug Resistance, Multiple, Bacterial
  • Emigrants and Immigrants / statistics & numerical data*
  • Emigration and Immigration
  • Health Policy
  • Humans
  • Mass Screening
  • Mycobacterium tuberculosis / isolation & purification
  • Population Surveillance
  • Tuberculin Test
  • Tuberculosis / epidemiology*
  • Tuberculosis / prevention & control
  • Tuberculosis, Multidrug-Resistant / epidemiology
  • Tuberculosis, Multidrug-Resistant / prevention & control
  • United States / epidemiology