TB incidence in an adolescent cohort in South Africa

BACKGROUND: Tuberculosis (TB) is a major public health problem globally. Little is known about TB incidence in adolescents who are a proposed target group for new TB vaccines. We conducted a study to determine the TB incidence rates and risk factors for TB disease in a cohort of school-going adolescents in a high TB burden area in South Africa. METHODS: We recruited adolescents aged 12 to 18 years from high schools in Worcester, South Africa. Demographic and clinical information was collected, a tuberculin skin test (TST) performed and blood drawn for a QuantiFERON TB Gold assay at baseline. Screening for TB cases occurred at follow up visits and by surveillance of registers at public sector TB clinics over a period of up to 3.8 years after enrolment. RESULTS: A total of 6,363 adolescents were enrolled (58% of the school population targeted). During follow up, 67 cases of bacteriologically confirmed TB were detected giving an overall incidence rate of 0.45 per 100 person years (95% confidence interval 0.29-0.72). Black or mixed race, maternal education of primary school or less or unknown, a positive baseline QuantiFERON assay and a positive baseline TST were significant predictors of TB disease on adjusted analysis. CONCLUSION: The adolescent TB incidence found in a high burden setting will help TB vaccine developers plan clinical trials in this population. Latent TB infection and low socio-economic status were predictors of TB disease.