Well-quantified tuberculosis exposure is a reliable surrogate measure of tuberculosis infection

A M Mandalakas, H L Kirchner, C Lombard, G Walzl, H M S Grewal, R P Gie, A C Hesseling
International Journal of Tuberculosis and Lung Disease 2012, 16 (8): 1033-9

SETTING: Cape Town, South Africa.

OBJECTIVE: To develop a standardized, reliable measure of household tuberculosis (TB) exposure that considers child-specific risk factors.

DESIGN: We assessed TB exposure in 536 children. Children were considered Mycobacterium tuberculosis infected if two of three tests of infection were positive. Principal component analysis identified a discrete set of components that collectively described exposure and contributed to a composite contact score. Logistic regression assessed the odds of having M. tuberculosis infection given increasing contact score while controlling for age and past TB treatment.

RESULTS: Four components described 68% of data variance: 1) maternal TB and sleep proximity, 2) index case infectivity, 3) duration of exposure, and 4) exposure to multiple index cases. Components were derived from 10 binary questions that contributed to a contact score (range 1-10, median 5, 25th-75th interquartile range [IQR] 4-7). Among children aged 3 months to 6 years with household exposure, the odds of being M. tuberculosis-infected increased by 74% (OR 1.74, 95%CI 1.42-2.12) with each 1-point increase in the contact score.

CONCLUSIONS: Well-quantified TB exposure is a good surrogate measure of M. tuberculosis infection in child household contacts in a high-burden setting, and could guide targeted preventive treatment in children at highest risk of M. tuberculosis infection.

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