Background: Multidrug-resistant tuberculosis threatens to reverse recent reductions in global tuberculosis incidence. Although children younger than 15 years constitute more than 25% of the worldwide population, the global incidence of multidrug-resistant tuberculosis disease in children has never been quantified. We aimed to estimate the regional and global annual incidence of multidrug-resistant tuberculosis in children.
Methods: We developed two models: one to estimate the setting-specific risk of multidrug-resistant tuberculosis among child cases of tuberculosis, and a second to estimate the setting-specific incidence of tuberculosis disease in children. The model for risk of multidrug-resistant tuberculosis among children with tuberculosis needed a systematic literature review. We multiplied the setting-specific estimates of multidrug-resistant tuberculosis risk and tuberculosis incidence to estimate regional and global incidence of multidrug-resistant tuberculosis disease in children in 2010.
Findings: We identified 3403 papers, of which 97 studies met inclusion criteria for the systematic review of risk of multidrug-resistant tuberculosis. 31 studies reported the risk of multidrug-resistant tuberculosis in both children and treatment-naive adults with tuberculosis and were used for evaluation of the linear association between multidrug-resistant disease risk in these two patient groups. We identified that the setting-specific risk of multidrug-resistant tuberculosis was nearly identical in children and treatment-naive adults with tuberculosis, consistent with the assertion that multidrug-resistant disease in both groups reflects the local risk of transmitted multidrug-resistant tuberculosis. After application of these calculated risks, we estimated that around 999,792 (95% CI 937,877-1,055,414) children developed tuberculosis disease in 2010, of whom 31,948 (25,594-38,663) had multidrug-resistant disease.
Interpretation: Our estimates underscore that many cases of tuberculosis and multidrug-resistant tuberculosis disease are not being detected in children. Future estimates can be refined as more and better tuberculosis data and new diagnostic instruments become available.
Funding: US National Institutes of Health, the Helmut Wolfgang Schumann Fellowship in Preventive Medicine at Harvard Medical School, the Norman E Zinberg Fellowship at Harvard Medical School, and the Doris and Howard Hiatt Residency in Global Health Equity and Internal Medicine at the Brigham and Women's Hospital.
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