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Focused screening of new residents, key to fight TB in Canada

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One of the goals of the World Health Organization is to reduce the occurrence of TB to one case per million inhabitants of any given country. In Canada, there are five cases per 100,000 inhabitants. Dr. Kevin Schwartzman and his team recently conducted a study to better understand the reasons behind this number, and to find a cost-efficient way to reduce it.

“According to the World Health Organization, 5–10 per cent of people infected with TB develop the disease in their lifetime. However, the risk of developing TB disease is 25–50 times higher within the first two years of acquiring the infection compared to when more years have elapsed,”

Dr. Kevin Schwartzman

The study revealed that one quarter of foreign-born Canadian residents are infected with TB bacteria. They were likely infected prior to their arrival in Canada and have been infected for over two years. Therefore, it would not be cost-effective to test foreign-born residents who have been in Canada for over two years. A more practical approach would be to screen individuals arriving from countries where TB is most prevalent, and to begin preventative treatment in those infected.

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Focused screening of new residents, key to fight TB in Canada, December 13, 2023. RI-MUHC News.

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The prevalence of tuberculosis infection among foreign-born Canadians: a modelling study Jordan AE, Nsengiyumva NP, Houben RMGJ, Dodd PJ, Dale KD, Trauer JM, Denholm JT, Johnston JC, Khan FA, Campbell JR, Schwartzman K. CMAJ. 2023 Dec 10;195(48):E1651-E1659. doi: 10.1503/cmaj.230228. PMID: 38081633; PMCID: PMC10718277.

Dr. Kevin Schwartzman is the senior author of the study, scientist at the RI-MUHC, a member at the Respiratory Epidemiology and Clinical Research Unit (RECRU) at McGill, and an associate member of the Meakins-Christie Laboratories and the Research Institute of the MUHC.