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Severe undernutrition in children affects tuberculin skin test performance in Southern India.

Abstract

Among 1189 HHCs, 342 were children (age 5-17 years) and 847 were adults. Prevalence of TST positivity in well-nourished, undernourished and severely undernourished children was 135/251 (53.8%), 32/68 (47.1%), and 7/23 (30.4%) respectively; among adults, prevalence of TST positivity was 304/708 (42.9%), 43/112 (38.4%) and 12/26 (46.2%), respectively. Severe undernutrition in children was associated with decreased odds of TST positivity (adjusted odds ratio 0.3; 95%CI 0.1-0.9).

Undernutrition impairs immunity to Mycobacterium tuberculosis and is a risk factor for tuberculosis disease (TB). We aim to investigate if severe undernutrition affects the tuberculin skin test (TST) response among household contacts (HHCs) of pulmonary TB cases.

We analyzed data from HHCs (> five years) of pulmonary TB cases in Southern India. Undernutrition was defined as per World Health Organization based on body mass index (BMI) for adults (undernutrition 16-18.4 and severe undernutrition <16 kg/m2) and BMI relative to the mean for children (undernutrition 2SD-3SD and severe undernutrition five mm) were calculated using logistic regression with generalized estimating equations.

Severe undernutrition in children was associated with decreased odds of TST positivity. False-negative TSTs may result from undernutrition; caution is warranted when interpreting negative results in undernourished populations.

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