Prevalence of positive tuberculosis skin tests during 5 years of screening in a Swiss remand prison

Int J Tuberc Lung Dis. 2012 Jan;16(1):65-9. doi: 10.5588/ijtld.11.0159.


Background: Tuberculosis (TB) screening in prisons is recommended, but the appropriate methods remain controversial. Studies evaluating screening in remand prisons are scarce.

Method: Between 1997 and 2001, voluntary screening based on the tuberculin skin test (TST) was offered to all prisoners on entry into the largest remand prison in Switzerland. Prisoners with positive results underwent chest X-rays. We analysed this information collected in an anonymous database.

Results: A total of 4890 prisoners entered the prison and were eligible for screening; 3779 (77.3%) had TST performed on average 9 days after arrival: 46.9% were positive (induration ≥ 10 mm). Positive TST rates were similar over the 5 years. Women were more likely to have a negative TST (60.4%) than men (47.7%; P < 0.001, Pearson's (2) 16.5). Positive TSTs varied according to the prisoner's country of origin (64% for sub-Saharan Africa, 57% for Eastern Europe, 56% for North Africa, 51% for Asia and 34% for North and West Europe).

Conclusion: The percentage of TST-positive subjects was high, and most did not receive preventive treatment for latent TB. The usefulness of systematic TST for all prisoners on entry is limited, as diagnosis of TB disease usually remains the priority in prisons.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Chi-Square Distribution
  • Emigrants and Immigrants / statistics & numerical data
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Latent Tuberculosis / diagnosis
  • Latent Tuberculosis / epidemiology
  • Male
  • Mass Screening / methods*
  • Mass Screening / statistics & numerical data*
  • Middle Aged
  • Predictive Value of Tests
  • Prevalence
  • Prisoners / statistics & numerical data*
  • Prisons / statistics & numerical data*
  • Switzerland / epidemiology
  • Time Factors
  • Tuberculin Test / statistics & numerical data*
  • Tuberculosis / diagnosis*
  • Tuberculosis / epidemiology*
  • Tuberculosis / ethnology
  • Young Adult