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Open Access Research article

Timing of therapy for latent tuberculosis infection among immigrants presenting to a U.S. public health clinic: a retrospective study

Kathleen R Page1*, Yukari C Manabe1, Akintoye Adelakun2, Lynn Federline2, Wendy Cronin3, James D Campbell4 and Susan E Dorman1

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Medicine, Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, Baltimore, MD, USA

2 Prince Georges County Tuberculosis Control Program, Cheverly, MD, USA

3 Maryland State Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, Baltimore, MD, USA

4 Department of Pediatrics, University of Maryland School of Medicine, Baltimore, MD, USA

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BMC Public Health 2008, 8:158  doi:10.1186/1471-2458-8-158

Published: 12 May 2008



In the U.S. more than half of incident tuberculosis (TB) cases occur in immigrants. Current guidelines recommend screening and treatment for latent TB infection (LTBI) within 5 years of arrival to the U.S. This study evaluates the timing of LTBI therapy among immigrants presenting for care to a public health TB clinic.


Retrospective chart review of patients prescribed LTBI treatment based on medical records from Prince Georges County Health Department.


1882 immigrants received LTBI therapy at Prince Georges County Health Department between 1999 and 2004. 417 of these patients were diagnosed with LTBI through contact investigations and were excluded from the analysis. Among the remaining 1465 individuals, median time from arrival to the U.S. until initiation of LTBI therapy was 5 months (range 0–42.4 years). 16% of all immigrants initiated therapy more than 5 years after arrival to the U.S. A logistic regression model using risks identified on univariate analysis revealed that referral for therapy by non-immigration proceedings was the strongest predictor of initiation of therapy more than 5 years after arrival to the U.S. Other factors associated with > 5 year U.S. residence prior to initiation of LTBI therapy included female gender (adjusted odds ratio (AOR) 1.8, 95% CI 1.2–2.6), age ≥ 35 (AOR = 4.1, 95% 2.5–6.6), and originating from Latin American and the Caribbean (AOR = 1.9, 95% CI 1.3–3.0).


Foreign-born individuals who are not referred for LTBI therapy through immigration proceedings are less likely to receive LTBI therapy within 5 years of arrival to the U.S. These data highlight the need to explore other mechanisms for timely LTBI screening beyond services provided by immigration.