Active community surveillance of the impact of different tuberculosis control measures, Tiruvallur, South India, 1968-2001

R Subramani, T Santha, T R Frieden, S Radhakrishna, P G Gopi, N Selvakumar, K Sadacharam, P R Narayanan
International Journal of Epidemiology 2007, 36 (2): 387-93

BACKGROUND: Tuberculosis is curable, but community surveys documenting epidemiological impact of the WHO-recommended DOTS strategy on tuberculosis prevalence have not been published. We used active community surveillance to compare the impact of DOTS with earlier programmes.

METHODS: We conducted tuberculosis disease surveys using random cluster sampling of a rural population in South India approximately every 2.5 years from 1968 to 1986, using radiography as a screening tool for sputum examination. In 1999, DOTS was implemented in the area. Prevalence surveys using radiography and symptom screening were conducted at the start of DOTS implementation and after 2.5 years.

RESULTS: From 1968 to 1999, culture-positive and smear-positive tuberculosis declined by 2.3 and 2.5% per annum compared with 11.9 and 5.6% after DOTS implementation. The 2.5 year period of DOTS implementation accounted for one-fourth of the decline in prevalence of culture-positive tuberculosis over 33 years. Multivariate analysis showed that prevalence of culture-positive tuberculosis decreased substantially (10.0% per annum, 95% CI: 2.8-16.6%) owing to DOTS after only slight declines related to temporal trends (2.1% annual decline, 95% CI: 1.1-3.2%) and short-course chemotherapy (1.5% annual decline, 95% CI: -9.7% to 11.5%). Under DOTS, the proportion of total cases identified through clinical care increased from 81 to 92%.

CONCLUSIONS: Following DOTS implementation, prevalence of culture-positive tuberculosis decreased rapidly following a gradual decline for the previous 30 years. In the absence of a large HIV epidemic and with relatively low levels of rifampicin resistance, DOTS was associated with rapid reduction of tuberculosis prevalence.

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