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Open Access Highly Accessed Open Badges Research article

Risk of latent tuberculosis infection in children living in households with tuberculosis patients: a cross sectional survey in remote northern Lao People's Democratic Republic

Tuan H Nguyen1, Peter Odermatt2, Gunther Slesak3 and Hubert Barennes1*

Author Affiliations

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

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

3 Service Fraternel d'Entraide, P.O. Box 56, Luang Nam Tha Provincial Hospital, Luang Namtha, Lao PDR

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BMC Infectious Diseases 2009, 9:96  doi:10.1186/1471-2334-9-96

Published: 17 June 2009



Tuberculosis is highly prevalent in Laos (289 per 100,000). We evaluated the risk of latent tuberculosis infection (LTBI) among children (0–15 years) living with tuberculosis patients in rural northern Laos.


In a cross sectional survey of 30 randomly selected villages, 72 tuberculosis patients were traced and their 317 contacts (148 were children) investigated using a questionnaire, a tuberculin skin tests (positive: > = 10 mm), a 3-day sputum examination for acid-fast bacilli (AFB), and chest radiography.


None of the 148 contact-children received prophylaxis, one had cervical tuberculosis; the risk for LTBI was 31.0%. Awareness of the infectiousness of tuberculosis was low among patients (31%) and their contacts (31%), and risky behavior was common. After multivariate logistic analysis, increased LTBI was found in children with contact with sputum positive adults (OR: 3.3, 95% CI: 1.4–7.7), patients highly positive sputum prior to treatment (AFB >2+; OR: 4.7, 95% CI: 1.7–12.3), and living in ethnic minorities (OR: 5.4, 95% CI: 2.2–13.6).


The study supports the importance of contact tracing in remote settings with high TB prevalence. Suggestions to improve the children's detection rate, the use of existing guidelines, chemoprophylaxis of contact-children and the available interventions in Laos are discussed. Improving education and awareness of the infectiousness of TB in patients is urgently needed to reduce TB transmission.