Surveillance of tuberculosis (TB) cases attributable to relapse or reinfection in London, 2002-2015

Baharak Afshar, Jacqueline Carless, Anita Roche, Sooria Balasegaram, Charlotte Anderson*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Citations (Scopus)


Recurrence of TB in an individual can occur due to relapse of the same strain or reinfection by a different strain. The contribution of reinfection and relapse to TB incidence, and the factors associated with each are unknown. We aimed to quantify and describe cases attributable to relapse or reinfection, and identify associated risk factors in order to reduce recurrence. We categorised recurrent TB cases from notifications in London (2002–2015) as relapse or reinfection using molecular (MIRU VNTR strain type) and epidemiological information (hierarchical approach using time since notification, site of disease and method of case finding). Factors associated with each outcome were determined using logistic regression in Stata Version 13.1 (2009–2015 only). Of 43,465 TB cases, 1.4% (618) were classified as relapse and 3.8% (1,637) as reinfection. The proportion with relapse decreased from 2002 (2.3%) to 2015 (1.3%), while the proportion of reinfection remained around 4%. Relapse was more common among recent migrants (<1 year, odds ratio (OR) = 1.99, p = 0.005), those with a social risk factor (OR = 1.51, p = 0.033) and those with central nervous system, spinal, miliary or disseminated TB (OR = 1.75, p = 0.001). Reinfection was more common among long term migrants (>11 years, OR = 1.67, p = <0.001), those with a social risk factor (OR = 1.96, p = <0.001) and within specific areas in London. Patients with social risk factors were at increased risk of both relapse and reinfection. Characterising those with relapsed disease highlights patients at risk and factors associated with reinfection suggest groups where transmission is occurring. This will inform TB control programs to target appropriate treatment and interventions in order to reduce the risk of recurrence.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere0211972
JournalPLoS ONE
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2019

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The author(s) received no specific funding for this work. We are grateful to all those who contributed information on tuberculosis cases in London, including nurses, physicians, microbiologists, scientists, outreach and social care and administrative staff. We also acknowledge colleagues at the Public Health England (PHE) National Mycobacterium Reference Laboratory for information on culture confirmation, drug susceptibility testing and strain typing.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2019 Afshar et al. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.


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