Tuberculosis patients in an Indian mega-city: Where do they live and where are they diagnosed?

Ramnath Subbaraman, Beena E. Thomas, Senthil Sellappan, Chandra Suresh, Lavanya Jayabal, Savari Lincy, Agnes L. Raja, Allison McFall, Sunil Suhas Solomon, Kenneth H. Mayer, Soumya Swaminathan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Scopus citations


Objective: Tuberculosis (TB) is a major source of mortality in urban India, with many structural challenges to optimal care delivery. In the government TB program in Chennai, India’s fourth most populous city, there is a 49% gap between the official number of smear-positive TB patients diagnosed and the official number registered in TB treatment within the city in 2014. We hypothesize that this “urban registration gap” is partly due to rural patients temporarily visiting the city for diagnostic evaluation. Methods: We collected data for one month (May 2015) from 22 government designated microscopy centers (DMCs) in Chennai where 90% of smear-positive TB patients are diagnosed and coded patient addresses by location. We also analyzed the distribution of chest symptomatics (i.e., patients screened for TB because of pulmonary symptoms) and diagnosed smear-positive TB patients for all of Chennai’s 54 DMCs in 2014. Results: At 22 DMCs in May 2015, 565 of 3,543 (15.9%) chest symptomatics and 71 of 412 (17.2%) diagnosed smear-positive patients had an address outside of Chennai. At the city’s four high patient volume DMCs, 54 of 270 (20.0%) smear-positive patients lived out-of-city. At one of these high-volume DMCs, 31 of 59 (52.5%) smear-positive patients lived out-of-city. Out of 6,135 smear-positive patients diagnosed in Chennai in 2014, 3,498 (57%) were diagnosed at the four high-volume DMCs. The 32 DMCs with the lowest patient volume diagnosed 10% of all smear-positive patients. Conclusions: TB case detection in Chennai is centralized, with four high-volume DMCs making most diagnoses. One-sixth of patients are from outside the city, most of whom get evaluated at these high-volume DMCs. This calls for better coordination between high-volume city DMCs and rural TB units where many patients may take TB treatment. Patient mobility only partly explains Chennai’s urban registration gap, suggesting that pretreatment loss to follow-up of patients who live within the city may also be a major problem.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere0183240
JournalPloS one
Issue number8
StatePublished - Aug 2017

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
  • Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all)
  • General


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