Recent household transmission of tuberculosis in England, 2010-2012: Retrospective national cohort study combining epidemiological and molecular strain typing data

Maeve Lalor*, Laura F. Anderson, Esther L. Hamblion, Andy Burkitt, Jennifer A. Davidson, Helen Maguire, Ibrahim Abubakar, Helen Thomas

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

20 Citations (Scopus)


Background: We estimate the proportion of tuberculosis (TB) in England due to recent household transmission, identify factors associated with being a household transmitter, and investigate the impact that identification of a case has on time to treatment of subsequent cases. Methods: TB cases notified between 2010 and 2012 in England in the same household as another case were identified; 24 locus MIRU-VNTR strain typing (ST) was used to identify household cases with likely recent transmission. Treatment delay in index and subsequent cases was compared. Risk factors for being a household transmitter were identified in univariable and multivariable analyses. Results: Overall, 7.7% (1849/24,060) of TB cases lived in a household with another case. We estimate that 3.9% were due to recent household transmission. ST data was unavailable for 67% (1242) of household pairs. For those with ST data, 64% (386) had confirmed, 11% probable (66) and 25% (155) refuted household transmission. The median treatment delay was 65 days for index cases and 37 days for subsequent asymptomatic cases. Risk factors for being a household transmitter included being under 25 years old, UK-born with Black African, Indian or Pakistani ethnicity, or born in Somalia or Romania. Conclusions: This study has a number of implications for household TB contact tracing in low incidence countries, including the potential to reduce the diagnostic delay for subsequent household cases and the benefit of using ST to identify when to conduct source contact tracing outside the household. As 25% of TB cases in households had discordant strains, households with multiple TB cases do not necessarily represent household transmission. The additional fact that 25% of index cases within households only had extra-pulmonary TB demonstrates that, if household contact tracing is limited to pulmonary TB cases (as recently recommended in UK guidelines), additional cases of active TB in households will be missed. Our finding that no lineage of TB was associated with recent household transmission and with no increased transmissibility in the Beijing lineage compared to others, suggests that the lineage need not impact contact tracing efforts. Improvements in contact tracing have the potential to reduce transmission of TB in low incidence countries.

Original languageEnglish
Article number105
JournalBMC Medicine
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 13 Jun 2017

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2017 The Author(s).


  • Household
  • MIRU-VNTR strain typing
  • Molecular epidemiology
  • Transmission
  • Tuberculosis


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