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J Infect Dis. 2011 Jun 1;203(11):1582-9. doi: 10.1093/infdis/jir162.

Epidemiologic inference from the distribution of tuberculosis cases in households in Lima, Peru.

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Department of Epidemiology, Harvard School of Public Health, Brigham and Women's Hospital, Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston, USA.



Tuberculosis (TB) often occurs among household contacts of people with active TB. It is unclear whether clustering of cases represents household transmission or shared household risk factors for TB.


We used cross-sectional data from 764 households in Lima, Peru, to estimate the relative contributions of household and community transmission, the average time between cases, and the immunity afforded by a previous TB infection.


The distribution of cases per household suggests that almost 7 of 10 nonindex household cases were infected in the community rather than in the household. The average interval between household cases was 3.5 years. We observed a saturation effect in the number of cases per household and estimated that protective immunity conferred up to 35% reduction in the risk of disease.


Cross-sectional household data can elucidate the natural history and transmission dynamics of TB. In this high-incidence setting, we found that the majority of cases were attributable to community transmission and that household contacts of case patients derive some immunity from household exposures. Screening of household contacts may be an effective method of detecting new TB cases if carried out over several years.

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