Open Access Open Badges Research article

Burden of tuberculosis disease among adolescents in a rural cohort in Eastern Uganda

James Waako13*, Suzanne Verver2, Anne Wajja13, Willy Ssengooba34, Moses L Joloba4, Robert Colebunders56, Philippa Musoke37 and Harriet Mayanja-Kizza38

Author Affiliations

1 Makerere University Iganga/Mayuge Demographic Surveillance Site, P.O BOX. 22418, Kampala, Uganda

2 KNCV Tuberculosis Foundation, The Hague, and CINIMA, Academic Medical Centre Amsterdam, Amsterdam, The Netherlands

3 Makerere University Infectious Diseases Institute, Kampala, Uganda

4 Department of Microbiology, Makerere University College of Health Sciences, Kampala, Uganda

5 Institute of Tropical Medicine, Antwerp, Belgium

6 University of Antwerp, Antwerp, Belgium

7 Department of Paediatrics and Child Health, Makerere University College of Health Sciences, Kampala, Uganda

8 Department of Medicine, Makerere University College of Health Sciences, Kampala, Uganda

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BMC Infectious Diseases 2013, 13:349  doi:10.1186/1471-2334-13-349

Published: 26 July 2013



The world health organization (WHO) declared tuberculosis (TB) a global emergency, mainly affecting people in sub-Saharan Africa. However there is little data about the burden of TB among adolescents. We estimated the prevalence and incidence of TB and assessed factors associated with TB among adolescents aged 12–18 years in a rural population in Uganda in order to prepare the site for phase III clinical trials with novel TB vaccines among adolescents.


In a prospective cohort study, we recruited 5000 adolescents and followed them actively, every 6 months, for 1–2 years. Participants suspected of having TB were those who had any of; TB signs and symptoms, history of TB contact or a positive tuberculin skin test (TST) of ≥10 mm. Laboratory investigations included sputum smear microscopy and culture.


Of the 5000 participants, eight culture confirmed cases of TB were found at baseline: a prevalence of 160/100,000 (95% confidence interval (CI), 69–315). There were 13 incident TB cases detected in an average of 1.1 person years: an incidence of 235/100,000 person years (95% CI, 125–402). None of the confirmed TB cases were HIV infected. Predictors for prevalent TB disease were: a history of TB contact and a cough ≥ 2 weeks at baseline and being out of school, while the only predictor for incident TB was a positive TST during follow-up.


The TB incidence among adolescents in this rural part of Uganda seemed too low for a phase III TB vaccine trial. However, the study site demonstrated capability to handle a large number of participants with minimal loss to follow-up and its suitability for future clinical trials. Improved contact tracing in TB program activities is likely to increase TB case detection among adolescents. Future studies should explore possible pockets of higher TB incidence in urban areas and among out of school youth.