National tuberculosis prevalence surveys in Africa, 2008–2016: an overview of results and lessons learned
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National tuberculosis prevalence surveys in Africa, 2008–2016: an overview of results and lessons learned

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    Trop Med Int Health
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    Worldwide, tuberculosis (TB) is the leading cause of death from a single infectious agent. In many countries, national TB prevalence surveys are the only way to reliably measure the burden of TB disease and can also provide other evidence to inform national efforts to improve TB detection and treatment. Our objective was to synthesise the results and lessons learned from national surveys completed in Africa between 2008 and 2016, to complement a previous review for Asia.


    Twelve surveys completed in Africa were identified: Ethiopia (2010–2011), Gambia (2011–2013), Ghana (2013), Kenya (2015–2016), Malawi (2013–2014), Nigeria (2012), Rwanda (2012), Sudan (2013–2014), Tanzania (2011–2012), Uganda (2014–2015), Zambia (2013–2014) and Zimbabwe (2014). The eligible population in all surveys was people aged ≥15 years who met residency criteria. In total 588 105 individuals participated, equivalent to 82% (range 57–96%) of those eligible. The prevalence of bacteriologically confirmed pulmonary TB disease in those ≥15 years varied from 119 (95% CI 79–160) per 100 000 population in Rwanda and 638 (95% CI 502–774) per 100 000 population in Zambia. The male:female ratio was 2.0 overall, ranging from 1.2 (Ethiopia) to 4.1 (Uganda). Prevalence per 100 000 population generally increased with age, but the absolute number of cases was usually highest among those aged 35–44 years. Of identified TB cases, 44% (95% CI 40–49) did not report TB symptoms during screening and were only identified as eligible for diagnostic testing due to an abnormal chest X-ray. The overall ratio of prevalence to case notifications was 2.5 (95% CI 1.8–3.2) and was consistently higher for men than women. Many participants who did report TB symptoms had not sought care; those that had were more likely to seek care in a public health facility. HIV prevalence was systematically lower among prevalent cases than officially notified TB patients with an overall ratio of 0.5 (95% CI 0.3–0.7). The two main study limitations were that none of the surveys included people <15 years, and 5 of 12 surveys did not have data on HIV status.


    National TB prevalence surveys implemented in Africa between 2010 and 2016 have contributed substantial new evidence about the burden of TB disease, its distribution by age and sex, and gaps in TB detection and treatment. Policies and practices to improve access to health services and reduce under-reporting of detected TB cases are needed, especially among men. All surveys provide a valuable baseline for future assessment of trends in TB disease burden.

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