Levels of tuberculosis treatment adherence among sputum smear positive pulmonary tuberculosis patients attending care at Zomba Central hospital, southern Malawi, 2007-2008

PLoS One. 2013 May 28;8(5):e63050. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0063050. Print 2013.


Background: Despite great efforts to control Tuberculosis (TB), progress is compromised by low adherence to medication, leading to prolonged duration of infectiousness and continued transmission. Investigating low adherence is of high importance from TB programmatic perspective. Though data on actual days of missed treatment exist, the effect of such on TB cure rates has not been investigated.

Methods: TB operational research data were extracted for smear-positive pulmonary TB patients registered at Zomba Central hospital, Malawi from January 2007 to December 2008.

Results: Of the 524 patients, 302 (57.6%) were males and 340 (64.9%) fully adhered to treatment. Excluding 5 individuals with missing data on cure, four hundred and eighty-one (92.7%) were cured of TB, and of these 162 (33.7%) missed at least one day of treatment. Respectively, 49/64 (76.6%) and 71/76 (93.4%) of those who missed treatment in the intensive and continuation phases were cured of TB (p = 0.005). The adjusted logistic regression analysis showed that those who missed 15-29 days of treatment (OR = 0.04, 95% CI: 0.01, 0.14) were less likely to be cured of TB compared with those who fully adhered.

Conclusion: Treatment non-adherence was high and was observed even within the first 2 months of treatment. Thus, even at an earlier critical stage of treatment, simple algorithms need to be developed to identify and monitor patients at higher risk of non-adherence. Efforts on treatment compliance counselling should focus on enhanced counselling to improve adherence during the intensive treatment phase.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Delivery of Health Care / statistics & numerical data*
  • Demography
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Logistic Models
  • Malawi / epidemiology
  • Male
  • Patient Compliance / statistics & numerical data*
  • Sputum / microbiology*
  • Treatment Outcome
  • Tuberculosis, Pulmonary / drug therapy*
  • Tuberculosis, Pulmonary / epidemiology*

Grants and funding

The funding for this study was covered by the University of the Witwatersrand Faculty of Health Sciences Individual Research Grant. The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.