Background: Tuberculosis (TB) is a major public health problem. The Airin district of Osaka City has a large population of homeless persons and caregivers and is estimated to be the largest TB-endemic area in the intermediate-prevalence country, Japan. However, there have been few studies of homeless persons and caregivers. The objective of this study is to detect active TB and to assess the prevalence and risk factors for latent TB infection among homeless persons and caregivers.
Methods: We conducted a cross-sectional study for screening TB infection (active and latent TB infections) using questionnaire, chest X-ray (CXR), newly available assay for latent TB infection (QuantiFERON-TB Gold In-Tube; QFT) and clinical evaluation by physicians at the Osaka Socio-Medical Center Hospital between July 2007 and March 2008. Homeless persons and caregivers, aged 30-74 years old, who had not received CXR examination within one year, were recruited. As for risk factors of latent TB infection, the odds ratios (OR) and 95% confidence intervals (95% CI) for QFT-positivity were calculated using logistic regression model.
Results: Complete responses were available from 436 individuals (263 homeless persons and 173 caregivers). Four active TB cases (1.5%) among homeless persons were found, while there were no cases among caregivers. Out of these four, three had positive QFT results. One hundred and thirty-three (50.6%) homeless persons and 42 (24.3%) caregivers had positive QFT results. In multivariate analysis, QFT-positivity was independently associated with a long time spent in the Airin district: ≥10 years versus <10 years for homeless (OR = 2.53; 95% CI, 1.39-4.61) and for caregivers (OR = 2.32; 95% CI, 1.05-5.13), and the past exposure to TB patients for caregivers (OR = 3.21; 95% CI, 1.30-7.91) but not for homeless persons (OR = 1.51; 95% CI, 0.71-3.21).
Conclusions: Although no active TB was found for caregivers, one-quarter of them had latent TB infection. In addition to homeless persons, caregivers need examinations for latent TB infection as well as active TB and careful follow-up, especially when they have spent a long time in a TB-endemic area and/or have been exposed to TB patients.