Rationale: HIV-associated tuberculosis remains a major health problem among the gold-mining workforce in South Africa. We postulate that high levels of recent transmission, indicated by strain clustering, are fueling the tuberculosis epidemic among gold miners. Objectives: To combine molecular and epidemiologic data to describe Mycobacterium tuberculosis genetic diversity, estimate levels of transmission, and examine risk factors for clustering. Methods: We conducted a cross-sectional study of culturepositive M. tuberculosis isolates in 15 gold mine shafts across three provinces in South Africa. All isolates were subject IS6110-based restriction fragment length polymorphisms, and we performed spoligotyping analysis and combined it with basic demographic and clinical information. Measurements and Main Results: Of the 1,602 M. tuberculosis patient isolates, 1,240 (78%) had genotyping data available for analysis. A highly diverse bacillary population was identified, comprising a total of 730 discrete genotypes. Four genotypic families (Latin American Mediterranean spoligotype family; W-Beijing; AH or X; and T1-T4) accounted for over 50% of all strains. Overall, 45% (560/1,240) of strains were genotypically clustered. The minimum estimate for recent transmission (n - 1 method) was 32% (range, 27-34%). There were no individual-level risk factors for clustering, apart from borderline evidence for being non-South African and having self-reported HIV infection. Conclusions: The high M. tuberculosis genetic diversity and lack of risk factors for clustering are indicative of a universal risk for disease among gold miners and likely mixing with nonmining populations. Our results underscore the urgent need to intensify interventions to interrupt transmission across the entire gold-mining workforce in South Africa.
- Gold mines
- Molecular epidemiology
- South africa
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Pulmonary and Respiratory Medicine