Open Access Open Badges Research article

Survival and health status of DOTS tuberculosis patients in rural Lao PDR

Hubert Barennes1*, Thongdam Keophithoun1, Tuan H Nguyen1, Michel Strobel1 and Peter Odermatt23

Author Affiliations

1 Institut de la Francophonie pour la Médecine Tropicale, Vientiane, Lao PDR

2 Swiss Tropical and Public Health Institute, Department of Public Health and Epidemiology, PO Box, 4002 Basel, Switzerland

3 University of Basel, 4003 Basel, Switzerland

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BMC Infectious Diseases 2010, 10:265  doi:10.1186/1471-2334-10-265

Published: 10 September 2010



Contact tracing of tuberculosis (TB) patients is rarely performed in low-income countries. Our objective was to assess the outcome of and compliance with directly observed treatment (DOTS) of TB patients over a 3 year period in rural Lao PDR.


We performed a retrospective cohort study in which we enrolled TB patients who started DOTS treatment at Attapeu Provincial Hospital. We traced, through hospital records, all patients in their residential village. We conducted a standardized questionnaire with all TB patients and performed physical and anthropometric examinations as well as evaluations of compliance through counting of treatment pills at home and at the health facilities.


Of 172 enrolled TB patients (sex ratio female/male: 0.52, mean age: 46.9 years ± 16.9), 26 (15.1%) died. These had a lower weight at the start (34.6 vs. 40.8 kg, p < 0.001) and were less compliant (91.6% vs. 19.2%, p < 0.001) than survivors. Low compliance was associated with poor accessibility to health care (p = 0.01) and symptomatic improvement (p = 0.02). Survivors had persistently poor health status. They were underweight (54.7%), and still had clinical symptoms (53.5%), including dyspnoea (28.8%) and haemoptysis (9.5%).


Our study suggests a lower rate of survival than expected from official statistics. Additionally, it showed that follow-up of TB patients is feasible although the patients lived in very remote area of Laos. Follow-up should be strengthened as it can improve patient compliance, and allow contact tracing, detection of new cases and collection of accurate treatment outcome information.