Exposed, but Not Protected: More Is Needed to Prevent Drug-Resistant Tuberculosis in Healthcare Workers and Students

Clin Infect Dis. 2016 May 15;62 Suppl 3:S275-80. doi: 10.1093/cid/ciw037.


"Occupational MDR-TB" … "XDR-TB" … "Treatment-induced hearing loss": 3 life-changing messages imparted over the phone. Three personal accounts are shared highlighting the false belief held by many healthcare workers (HCWs) and students in low-resource settings-that they are immune to tuberculosis despite high levels of occupational tuberculosis exposure. This misconception reflects a lack of awareness of tuberculosis transmission and disease risk, compounded by the absence of accurate occupational tuberculosis estimates. As the global problem of drug-resistant (DR) tuberculosis evolves, HCWs are increasingly infected and suffer considerable morbidity and mortality from occupational DR tuberculosis disease. Similarly, healthcare students are emerging as a vulnerable and unprotected group. There is an urgent need for improved detection, vaccines, preventive therapy, treatment, and support for affected HCWs and those they care for, as well as destigmatization of all forms of tuberculosis. Finally, efforts to protect HCWs and prevent DR tuberculosis transmission by universal implementation of tuberculosis infection control measures should be prioritized.

Keywords: drug-resistant tuberculosis; healthcare workers; students; tuberculosis; tuberculosis infection control.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Antitubercular Agents
  • Extensively Drug-Resistant Tuberculosis
  • Health Personnel*
  • Hearing Loss, High-Frequency / etiology
  • Hearing Loss, High-Frequency / microbiology
  • Humans
  • Infectious Disease Transmission, Patient-to-Professional / prevention & control*
  • Occupational Diseases* / diagnosis
  • Occupational Diseases* / prevention & control
  • Occupational Exposure
  • Students*
  • Tuberculosis Vaccines
  • Tuberculosis, Multidrug-Resistant* / complications
  • Tuberculosis, Multidrug-Resistant* / diagnosis
  • Tuberculosis, Multidrug-Resistant* / prevention & control


  • Antitubercular Agents
  • Tuberculosis Vaccines