Background: Transmission of drug susceptible and drug resistant TB occurs in health care facilities, and community and households settings, particularly in highly prevalent TB and HIV areas. There is a paucity of data regarding factors that may affect TB transmission risk in household settings. We evaluated air exchange and the impact of natural ventilation on estimated TB transmission risk in traditional Zulu homes in rural South Africa.
Methods: We utilized a carbon dioxide decay technique to measure ventilation in air changes per hour (ACH). We evaluated predominant home types to determine factors affecting ACH and used the Wells-Riley equation to estimate TB transmission risk.
Results: Two hundred eighteen ventilation measurements were taken in 24 traditional homes. All had low ventilation at baseline when windows were closed (mean ACH = 3, SD = 3.0), with estimated TB transmission risk of 55.4% over a ten hour period of exposure to an infectious TB patient. There was significant improvement with opening windows and door, reaching a mean ACH of 20 (SD = 13.1, p < 0.0001) resulting in significant decrease in estimated TB transmission risk to 9.6% (p < 0.0001). Multivariate analysis identified factors predicting ACH, including ventilation conditions (windows/doors open) and window to volume ratio. Expanding ventilation increased the odds of achieving ≥12 ACH by 60-fold.
Conclusions: There is high estimated risk of TB transmission in traditional homes of infectious TB patients in rural South Africa. Improving natural ventilation may decrease household TB transmission risk and, combined with other strategies, may enhance TB control efforts.