Age-related tuberculosis incidence and severity in children under 5 years of age in Cape Town, South Africa

Int J Tuberc Lung Dis. 2010 Feb;14(2):149-54.


Setting: Limited data are available on the characteristics of tuberculosis (TB) disease in young children, especially in high-burden countries.

Objective: To assess the incidence and severity of TB in children aged <5 years.

Methods: TB records and chest radiographs of children born in Cape Town in 1999 and diagnosed with TB between 1999 and 2004 were reviewed retrospectively.

Results: A total of 1607 cases were registered. The cumulative incidence of definite (bacteriologically confirmed) and probable (radiological evidence and > or =1 TB clinical feature) TB in children aged <5 years was 2.9% and was highest between the ages of 12 and 23 months. Of 1233 children with definite or probable TB, 506 (41%) had severe disease (dissemination, cavities or >1 lobe involved). The under 5 years incidence of disseminated TB was 0.33%. Of 239 (15%) cases that were bacteriologically confirmed, clinical features typical of TB disease were individually present in <60%. The most common combined symptoms were cough for >2 weeks and weight loss, occurring in 43/239 (18%).

Conclusion: TB incidence was high, and peaked in children aged 12-23 months. Many children experienced severe disease. A fifth of children with microbiologically confirmed disease presented with only one feature typically associated with TB.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Age Distribution
  • Child, Preschool
  • Cough / epidemiology
  • Cough / etiology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Incidence
  • Infant
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Male
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Severity of Illness Index
  • South Africa / epidemiology
  • Tuberculosis / epidemiology
  • Tuberculosis / physiopathology*
  • Weight Loss