Setting: Tuberculosis (TB) is a leading cause of childhood death. Patient-level data on pediatric TB in Malawi that can be used to guide programmatic interventions are limited.
Objective: To describe pediatric TB case burden, disease patterns, treatment outcomes, and risk factors for death and poor outcome.
Design: We conducted a retrospective cohort study utilizing routine data. Odds ratios (ORs) for factors associated with poor outcome and death were calculated using generalized estimating equations.
Results: Children represented 8% (371/4642) of TB diagnoses. The median age was 7 years (interquartile range 2.8-11); 32.8% (113/345) were human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) infected. Of these, 54.0% were on antiretroviral therapy (ART) at the time of anti-tuberculosis treatment (ATT) initiation, 21.2% started ART during ATT, and 24.8% had no documented ART. The treatment success rate was 77.3% (11.2% cured, 66.1% completed treatment), with 22.7% experiencing poor outcomes (9.5% died, 13.2% were lost to follow-up). Being on ART at the time of ATT initiation was associated with increased odds of death compared to beginning ART during treatment (adjusted OR 2.75, 95%CI 1.27-5.96).
Conclusion: Children represent a small proportion of diagnosed TB cases and experience poor outcomes. Higher odds of death among children already on ART raises concerns over the management of these children. Further discussion of and research into pediatric-specific strategies is required to improve case finding and outcomes.