Background: Identifying source cases of children exposed to tuberculosis (TB) is challenging. We examined the time-point of obtaining contact information of TB source cases in human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) infected and HIV-exposed uninfected (HEU) children in a randomised, placebo-controlled trial of pre-exposure to isoniazid prophylaxis.
Methods: A total of 543 HIV-infected and 808 HEU infants without TB exposure aged 3-4 months were enrolled between 2004 and 2008. At 3-monthly follow-up, infants were evaluated for TB and care givers were asked about new TB exposure.
Results: In total, 128 cases of TB disease and 40 deaths were recorded among 19% (105/543) of the HIV-infected and 8% (63/808) of the HEU children; 229 TB contact occasions were reported in 205/1351 (15%) children, of which 83% (189/229) were in the household. Of the 189 household contacts, 108 (53%) underwent microbiological evaluations; 81% (87/108) were positive. HIV-infected and HEU infants had similar frequencies of TB contact: in 48% of infants with definite TB, 58% with probable TB and 43% with possible TB. Of 128 children diagnosed with TB, a TB contact was identified for 59. Of these, 29/59 (49%) were identified at or after the child's TB diagnosis.
Conclusion: TB source cases are often identified at or after a child's TB diagnosis. More effort is required for earlier detection.