Effect of Diagnostic and Treatment Delay on the Risk of Tuberculosis Transmission in Shenzhen, China: An Observational Cohort Study, 1993-2010

PLoS One. 2013 Jun 27;8(6):e67516. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0067516. Print 2013.


Introduction: To understand better the risk of tuberculosis transmission with increasing delay in tuberculosis treatment, we undertook a retrospective cohort study in Shenzhen, China.

Methods: All pulmonary tuberculosis cases in the Shenzhen tuberculosis surveillance database from 1993-2010 were included. Sputum smear positivity and presence of pulmonary cavity were used as proxies for risk of tuberculosis transmission.

Results: Among 48,441pulmonary tuberculosis cases, 70% presented with symptoms of pulmonary TB, 62% were sputum smear positive, and 21% had a pulmonary cavity on chest x-ray. 95.3% of patients self-presented for evaluation of illness after a median 58 days of delay after symptoms began. The proportion presenting sputum smear positive (p<0.001) and with a pulmonary cavity (p<0.001) increased significantly with increasing duration of delay.

Conclusions: Delayed diagnosis and treatment of tuberculosis is associated with a significantly increased risk of pulmonary sputum smear positivity and pulmonary cavity. To decrease risk of transmission, treatment delay needs to be reduced further.

Publication types

  • Observational Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Age Factors
  • Aged
  • Antitubercular Agents / therapeutic use*
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • China
  • Delayed Diagnosis
  • Female
  • Health Knowledge, Attitudes, Practice*
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Mycobacterium tuberculosis / pathogenicity*
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Risk Factors
  • Sputum / microbiology*
  • Time-to-Treatment
  • Treatment Outcome
  • Tuberculosis, Pulmonary / diagnosis
  • Tuberculosis, Pulmonary / drug therapy
  • Tuberculosis, Pulmonary / microbiology
  • Tuberculosis, Pulmonary / transmission*
  • Young Adult


  • Antitubercular Agents

Grant support

This work was supported by National Nature Science Foundation (No. 30973981) and Beijing Municipal Commission of Education (No. KM201010025010), and Chinese Government Grants (no. 2012ZX10004903). The funder has no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.