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J Public Health (Oxf). 2014 Mar;36(1):22-7. doi: 10.1093/pubmed/fdt036. Epub 2013 Apr 4.

Prevalence of latent tuberculosis, syphilis, hepatitis B and C among asylum seekers in Malta.

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National Institute for Health, Migration and Poverty (NIHMP), Via di San Gallicano 25/A, Rome 00153, Italy.



In the last few years, Malta has witnessed increasing immigration flows from the Libyan coasts. Public health policies are focused on screening migrants for tuberculosis, whereas no systematic actions against STIs are implemented. The aim of this study is to define the epidemiological profile of asylum seekers in Malta as regards syphilis, hepatitis B, C and latent tuberculosis, thus supporting screening policies.


Five hundred migrants living in open centres were screened between December 2010 and June 2011.


83.2% of people was from Somalia, 81.2% males, average age 26.5 years. The tuberculin skin test (TST) was positive in 225 migrants (45%). Latent syphilis was diagnosed in 11 migrants, hepatitis C in 3 and 31 migrants were HBsAg positive.


Systematic screening for asymptomatic migrants in Malta is not recommended for hepatitis C and syphilis, given the low prevalence observed. On the contrary, it should be considered for hepatitis B. TST could be indicated as the first step of a two step screening for migrants from countries with high TB incidence. Efficacy and cost-effectiveness could be achieved by further targeting screening to specific subgroups at higher risk of reactivation, such as people living with HIV and subjects affected by chronic diseases.


Malta; hepatitis; migrants; sexually transmitted infections; tuberculosis

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