Risk of developing active tuberculosis following tuberculosis screening and preventive therapy for Tibetan refugee children and adolescents in India: An impact assessment

Kunchok Dorjee, Sonam Topgyal, Tenzin Tsewang, Tenzin Tsundue, Tenzin Namdon, Elizabeth Bonomo, Caroline Kensler, Dekyi Lhadon, Tsering Choetso, Tenzin Nangsel, Tsering Dolkar, Thupten Tsekyi, Chungdak Dorjee, Dawa Phunkyi, Tsetan D. Sadutshang, Zorba Paster, Richard E. Chaisson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background Tuberculosis (TB) rates among Tibetan refugee children and adolescents attending boarding schools in India are extremely high. We undertook a comprehensive case finding and TB preventive treatment (TPT) program in 7 schools in the Zero TB Kids project. We aimed to measure the TB infection and disease burden and investigate the risk of TB disease in children and adults who did and did not receive TPT in the schools. Methods and findings A mobile team annually screened children and staff for TB at the 7 boarding schools in Himachal Pradesh, India, using symptom criteria, radiography, molecular diagnostics, and tuberculin skin tests. TB infection (TBI) was treated with short-course regimens of isoniazid and rifampin or rifampin. TB disease was treated according to Tibetan and Indian guidelines. Between April 2017 and December 2019, 6,582 schoolchildren (median age 14 [IQR 11-16] years) and 807 staff (median age 40 [IQR 33-48] years) were enrolled. Fifty-one percent of the students and 58% of the staff were females. Over 13,161 person-years of follow-up in schoolchildren (median follow-up 2.3 years) and 1,800 person-years of follow-up in staff (median follow-up 2.5 years), 69 TB episodes occurred in schoolchildren and 4 TB episodes occurred in staff, yielding annual incidence rates of 524/100,000 (95% CI 414-663/100,000) person-years and 256/100,000 (95% CI 96-683/100,000) person-years, respectively. Of 1,412 schoolchildren diagnosed with TBI, 1,192 received TPT. Schoolchildren who received TPT had 79% lower risk of TB disease (adjusted hazard ratio [aHR] 0.21; 95% CI 0.07-0.69; p = 0.010) compared to non-recipients, the primary study outcome. Protection was greater in recent contacts (aHR 0.07; 95% CI 0.01-0.42; p = 0.004), the secondary study outcome. The prevalence of recent contacts was 28% (1,843/6,582). Two different TPT regimens were used (3HR and 4R), and both were apparently effective. No staff receiving TPT developed TB. Overall, between 2017 and 2019, TB disease incidence decreased by 87%, from 837/100,000 (95% CI 604-1,129/100,000) person-years to 110/100,000 (95% CI 36-255/100,000) person-years (p < 0.001), and TBI prevalence decreased by 42% from 19% (95% CI 18%-20%) to 11% (95% CI 10%-12%) (p < 0.001). A limitation of our study is that TB incidence could be influenced by secular trends during the study period. Conclusions In this study, following implementation of a school-wide TB screening and preventive treatment program, we observed a significant reduction in the burden of TB disease and TBI in children and adolescents. The benefit of TPT was particularly marked for recent TB contacts. This initiative may serve as a model for TB detection and prevention in children and adolescents in other communities affected by TB.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere1003502
JournalPLoS medicine
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 19 2021

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Medicine


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