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PLoS One. 2014 Mar 13;9(3):e90868. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0090868. eCollection 2014.

High rates of potentially infectious tuberculosis and multidrug-resistant tuberculosis (MDR-TB) among hospital inpatients in KwaZulu Natal, South Africa indicate risk of nosocomial transmission.

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TBRU, Medical Research Council, Durban, KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa.
Harvard Medical School Division of Global Health Equity, Brigham and Women's Hospital, Boston, Massachusetts, United States of America.
TBRU, Medical Research Council, Durban, KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa; KwaZulu-Natal Research Institute for Tuberculosis and HIV Research (K-RITH), Nelson Mandela School of Medicine, Durban, KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa.



Nosocomial transmission has been implicated as a key factor in the outbreak of extensively drug resistant (XDR) and multidrug-resistant (MDR-TB) tuberculosis at Church of Scotland Hospital (CoSH), in KwaZulu-Natal (KZN), South Africa. The aim of this study was to quantify the burden of potentially infectious tuberculosis and the proportion of drug resistance among hospital inpatients throughout the province of KZN.


Inpatients with current cough, capable of producing sputum were selected from 19 public hospitals in KZN. After informed consent, demographic and clinical data, and sputum samples were collected. Samples were processed for fluorescent microscopy, liquid culture and first and second-line anti-tuberculosis drug susceptibility testing.


There were a total of 2,964 inpatients where sampling was done. About 1,585 inpatients (53%) had a current cough and sufficient microbiological and clinical data for inclusion. Mycobacterium tuberculosis was isolated from 543 inpatients (34% of those tested and 18% of all inpatients). Eighty-four (15%) inpatients with TB were found to be MDR-TB infected and 16 (3%) had XDR-TB. There was no association between the prevalence of MDR-TB and proximity to CoSH. Among patients with microbiologically confirmed TB, MDR/XDR-TB was associated with male sex, a longer length of stay between hospital admission and date of sample collection, and current or previous TB treatment.


One in five inpatients had potentially infectious TB. This is an underestimate since patients without current cough were not tested. MDR-TB was frequently observed and was found in nearly one in six active TB inpatients. While present at lower levels than the original outbreak report at CoSH, XDR-TB was detected in hospitals throughout KZN. The high burden of potentially infectious TB and confirmed MDR-TB, much of it undiagnosed, indicates a serious risk for nosocomial transmission and the need for intensified infection control within the inpatient setting.

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