Multidrug-resistant tuberculosis imported into low-incidence countries-a GeoSentinel analysis, 2008-2020

J Travel Med. 2021 May 12;taab069. doi: 10.1093/jtm/taab069. Online ahead of print.


Background: Early detection of imported multidrug-resistant tuberculosis (MDR-TB) is crucial, but knowledge gaps remain about migration- and travel-associated MDR-TB epidemiology. The aim was to describe epidemiologic characteristics among international travelers and migrants with MDR-TB.

Methods: Clinician-determined and microbiologically confirmed MDR-TB diagnoses deemed to be related to travel or migration were extracted from GeoSentinel, a global surveillance network of travel and tropical medicine clinics, from January 2008 through December 2020. MDR-TB was defined as resistance to both isoniazid and rifampicin. Additional resistance to either a fluoroquinolone or a second-line injectable drug was categorized as pre-extensively drug-resistant (pre-XDR) TB, and as extensively drug-resistant (XDR) TB when resistance was detected for both. Sub-analyses were performed based on degree of resistance and country of origin.

Results: Of 201 patients, 136 had MDR-TB (67.7%), 25 had XDR-TB (12.4%), 23 had pre-XDR TB (11.4%), and 17 had unspecified MDR- or XDR-TB (8.5%); 196 (97.5%) were immigrants, of which 92 (45.8%) originated from the former Soviet Union. The median interval from arrival to presentation was 154 days (interquartile range [IQR]: 10-751 days); 34.3% of patients presented within 1 month after immigration, 30.9% between 1 and 12 months, and 34.9% after ≥1 year. Pre-XDR- and XDR-TB patients from the former Soviet Union other than Georgia presented earlier than those with MDR-TB (26 days [IQR: 8-522] vs. 369 days [IQR: 84-827]) while patients from Georgia presented very early, irrespectively of the level of resistance (8 days [IQR: 2-18] vs. 2 days [IQR: 1-17]).

Conclusions: MDR-TB is uncommon in traditional travellers. Purposeful medical migration may partly explain differences in time to presentation among different groups. Public health resources are needed to better understand factors contributing to cross-border MDR-TB spread and to develop strategies to optimize care of TB-infected patients in their home countries before migration.

Keywords: Epidemiology; Extensively drug-resistant tuberculosis; Immigration; MDR-TB; Medical migration; Migrant; Travel.