Background: The control of tuberculosis (TB) is founded on early case detection and complete treatment of disease. In the UK, TB is concentrated in subgroups of the population in large urban centres. The impact of homelessness, imprisonment and problem drug use on TB control in London is reviewed.
Methods: A cohort study was undertaken of all patients with TB in Greater London to determine the point prevalence of disease in different groups and to examine risk factors for smear positivity, drug resistance, treatment adherence, loss to follow-up and use of directly observed therapy (DOT).
Results: Data were collected on 97% (1941/1995) of eligible patients. The overall prevalence of TB was 27 per 100 000. An extremely high prevalence of TB was seen in homeless people (788/100 000), problem drug users (354/100 000) and prisoners (208/100 000). Multivariate analysis showed that problem drug use was associated with smear positive disease (OR 2.2, p<0.001), being part of a known outbreak of drug resistant TB (OR 3.5, p = 0.001) and loss to follow-up (OR 2.7, p<0.001). Imprisonment was associated with being part of the outbreak (OR 10.3, p<0.001) and poor adherence (OR 3.9, p<0.001). Homelessness was associated with infectious TB (OR 1.6, p = 0.05), multidrug resistance (OR 2.1, p = 0.03), poor adherence (OR 2.5, p<0.001) and loss to follow-up (OR 3.8, p<0.001). In London, homeless people, prisoners and problem drug users collectively comprise 17% of TB cases, 44% of smear positive drug resistant cases, 38% of poorly compliant cases and 44% of cases lost to follow-up. 15% of these patients start treatment on DOT but 46% end up on DOT.
Conclusions: High levels of infectious and drug resistant disease, poor adherence and loss to follow-up care indicate that TB is not effectively controlled among homeless people, prisoners and problem drug users in London.
- DOT, directly observed therapy
- TB, tuberculosis
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Published Online First 8 February 2007
Funding: Department of Health and the Health Protection Agency.
Competing interests: None.
Ethics approval: London Metropolitan Multi-centre Research Ethics Committee
Statement of independence of researchers from funders: Alistair Story is currently employed by the Health Protection Agency