Nutritional supplementation to prevent tuberculosis incidence in household contacts of patients with pulmonary tuberculosis in India (RATIONS): a field-based, open-label, cluster-randomised, controlled trial

Lancet. 2023 Aug 19;402(10402):627-640. doi: 10.1016/S0140-6736(23)01231-X. Epub 2023 Aug 8.


Background: In India, tuberculosis and undernutrition are syndemics with a high burden of tuberculosis coexisting with a high burden of undernutrition in patients and in the population. The aim of this study was to determine the effect of nutritional supplementation on tuberculosis incidence in household contacts of adults with microbiologically confirmed pulmonary tuberculosis.

Methods: In this field-based, open-label, cluster-randomised controlled trial, we enrolled household contacts of 2800 patients with microbiologically confirmed pulmonary tuberculosis across 28 tuberculosis units of the National Tuberculosis Elimination Programme in four districts of Jharkhand, India. The tuberculosis units were randomly allocated 1:1 by block randomisation to the control group or the intervention group, by a statistician using computer-generated random numbers. Although microbiologically confirmed pulmonary tuberculosis patients in both groups received food rations (1200 kcal, 52 grams of protein per day with micronutrients) for 6 months, only household contacts in the intervention group received monthly food rations and micronutrients (750 kcal, 23 grams of protein per day with micronutrients). After screening all household contacts for co-prevalent tuberculosis at baseline, all participants were followed up actively until July 31, 2022, for the primary outcome of incident tuberculosis (all forms). The ascertainment of the outcome was by independent medical staff in health services. We used Cox proportional hazards model and Poisson regression via the generalised estimating equation approach to estimate unadjusted hazard ratios, adjusted hazard ratios (aHRs), and incidence rate ratios (IRRs). This study is registered with CTRI-India, CTRI/2019/08/020490.

Findings: Between Aug 16, 2019, and Jan 31, 2021, there were 10 345 household contacts, of whom 5328 (94·8%) of 5621 household contacts in the intervention group and 4283 (90·7%) of 4724 household contacts in the control group completed the primary outcome assessment. Almost two-thirds of the population belonged to Indigenous communities (eg, Santhals, Ho, Munda, Oraon, and Bhumij) and 34% (3543 of 10 345) had undernutrition. We detected 31 (0·3%) of 10 345 household contact patients with co-prevalent tuberculosis disease in both groups at baseline and 218 (2·1%) people were diagnosed with incident tuberculosis (all forms) over 21 869 person-years of follow-up, with 122 of 218 incident cases in the control group (2·6% [122 of 4712 contacts at risk], 95% CI 2·2-3·1; incidence rate 1·27 per 100 person-years) and 96 incident cases in the intervention group (1·7% [96 of 5602], 1·4-2·1; 0·78 per 100 person-years), of whom 152 (69·7%) of 218 were patients with microbiologically confirmed pulmonary tuberculosis. Tuberculosis incidence (all forms) in the intervention group had an adjusted IRR of 0·61 (95% CI 0·43-0·85; aHR 0·59 [0·42-0·83]), with an even greater decline in incidence of microbiologically confirmed pulmonary tuberculosis (0·52 [0·35-0·79]; 0·51 [0·34-0·78]). This translates into a relative reduction of tuberculosis incidence of 39% (all forms) to 48% (microbiologically confirmed pulmonary tuberculosis) in the intervention group. An estimated 30 households (111 household contacts) would need to be provided nutritional supplementation to prevent one incident tuberculosis.

Interpretation: To our knowledge, this is the first randomised trial looking at the effect of nutritional support on tuberculosis incidence in household contacts, whereby the nutritional intervention was associated with substantial (39-48%) reduction in tuberculosis incidence in the household during 2 years of follow-up. This biosocial intervention can accelerate reduction in tuberculosis incidence in countries or communities with a tuberculosis and undernutrition syndemic.

Funding: Indian Council of Medical Research-India TB Research Consortium.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Dietary Supplements
  • Humans
  • Incidence
  • India / epidemiology
  • Tuberculosis*
  • Tuberculosis, Pulmonary* / diagnosis
  • Tuberculosis, Pulmonary* / epidemiology
  • Tuberculosis, Pulmonary* / prevention & control