Assessment and management of latent tuberculosis infection in a refugee population in the Northern Territory

Med J Aust. 2011 Jun 6;194(11):579-82. doi: 10.5694/j.1326-5377.2011.tb03108.x.


Objectives: To assess the prevalence of latent tuberculosis infection (LTBI) in recently arrived refugees in the Northern Territory and to obtain comprehensive data for rates of treatment acceptance and completion for this condition.

Design, setting and participants: Prospective data collection and follow-up of all 471 newly arrived refugees seen at the Centre for Disease Control, NT refugee health clinic from February 2006 to January 2009.

Main outcome measures: Rates of LTBI determined by tuberculin skin testing; subsequent assessment and treatment compared with local protocols.

Results: 458 of 465 eligible refugees were adequately assessed for LTBI, of whom 146 (31.9%) were diagnosed with LTBI. Older age, male sex and World Health Organization Eastern Mediterranean region of birth were associated with increased prevalences of LTBI. Of the refugees diagnosed with LTBI, 10 failed to attend for follow-up and 15 were not offered treatment. Isoniazid therapy was accepted by 93 of 121 refugees (76.9%), and 41 of these (44.1%) completed treatment. The most common reasons for discontinuation of therapy were medication-related side effects (most often gastrointestinal) and loss to follow-up. Increasing age was associated with failure to complete treatment.

Conclusion: Outcomes of assessment and treatment for LTBI in newly arrived refugees in the NT are comparable to those for other target groups screened in developed countries. Loss to follow-up caused significant attrition in numbers, but complete data were obtained for a large proportion of eligible refugees. Most refugees who are offered treatment for LTBI accept, but less than half complete treatment.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Age Factors
  • Ambulatory Care Facilities
  • Antitubercular Agents / therapeutic use
  • Australia / epidemiology
  • Child
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Isoniazid / therapeutic use
  • Latent Tuberculosis / diagnosis
  • Latent Tuberculosis / drug therapy*
  • Latent Tuberculosis / epidemiology*
  • Lost to Follow-Up
  • Male
  • Medication Adherence / statistics & numerical data*
  • Prevalence
  • Prospective Studies
  • Refugees / statistics & numerical data*
  • Sex Factors
  • Tuberculin Test
  • Young Adult


  • Antitubercular Agents
  • Isoniazid