Email updates

Keep up to date with the latest news and content from BMC Infectious Diseases and BioMed Central.

Open Access Highly Accessed Research article

Risk of latent TB infection in individuals employed in the healthcare sector in Germany: a multicentre prevalence study

Anja Schablon12*, Melanie Harling12, Roland Diel3 and Albert Nienhaus2

Author Affiliations

1 Institution for Statutory Accident Insurance and Prevention in the Health and Welfare Services, Department of Occupational Health Research, Pappelallee 35-37, 22089 Hamburg, Germany

2 University Medical Center Hamburg-Eppendorf, Institute for Health Services Research in Dermatology and Nursing, Martinistraße 52, 20246 Hamburg, Germany

3 Department of Pulmonary Medicine, Hannover Medical School (MHH), Carl-Neuberg-Straße1, 30625 Hannover, Germany

For all author emails, please log on.

BMC Infectious Diseases 2010, 10:107  doi:10.1186/1471-2334-10-107

Published: 30 April 2010

Abstract

Background

Healthcare workers are still recognised as a high-risk group for latent TB infection (LTBI). Therefore, the screening of people employed in the healthcare sector for active and LTBI is fundamental to infection control programmes in German hospitals. It was the aim of the study to determine the prevalence and putative risk factors of LTBI.

Methods

We tested 2028 employees in the healthcare sector with the QuantiFERON-Gold In-tube (QFT-IT) test between December 2005 and May 2009, either in the course of contact tracing or in serial testing of TB high-risk groups following German OSH legislation.

Results

A positive IGRA was found in 9.9% of the healthcare workers (HCWs). Nurses and physicians showed similar prevalence rates (9.7% to 9.6%). Analysed by occupational group, the highest prevalence was found in administration staff and ancillary nursing staff (17.4% and 16.7%). None of the individuals in the trainee group showed a positive IGRA result. In the different workplaces the observed prevalence was 14.7% in administration, 12.0% in geriatric care, 14.2% in technicians (radiology, laboratory and pathology), 6.5% in admission ward staff and 8.3% in the staff of pulmonary/infectious disease wards. Putative risk factors for LTBI were age (>55 years: OR14.7, 95% CI 5.1-42.1), being foreign-born (OR 1.99, 95% CI 1.4-2.8), TB in the individual's own history (OR 4.96, 95% CI 1.99-12.3) and previous positive TST results (OR 3.5, 95% CI 2.4-4.98). We observed no statistically significant association with gender, BCG vaccination, workplace or profession.

Conclusion

The prevalence of LTBI in low-incidence countries depends on age. We found no positive IGRA results among trainees in the healthcare sector. Incidence studies are needed to assess the infection risk. Pre-employment screening might be helpful in this endeavour.