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The problem with defining foreign birth as a risk factor in tuberculosis epidemiology studies.

Abstract

Persons from high-incidence countries had a 12-fold higher TB incidence than those emigrating from low-incidence settings. Estimates of local transmission, as captured by genotyping, versus reactivation of latent TB infection acquired outside Canada varied when data were stratified by birthplace TB incidence, as did patient-level characteristics of individuals in each group, such as age and years between immigration and diagnosis.

Categorizing persons beyond simply "foreign-born", particularly in the context of TB epidemiologic and molecular data, is needed for a more accurate understanding of TB rates and patterns of transmission.

We used population-level data from two large cohorts in British Columbia (BC), Canada: an immigration cohort (n = 337,492 permanent residents to BC) and a genotyping cohort (n = 2290 culture-confirmed active TB cases). We stratified active TB case counts, incidence rates, and genotypic clustering (an indicator of TB transmission) in BC by birth country TB incidence, age at immigration, and years since arrival.

Population-level TB surveillance programs and research studies in low incidence settings often report all persons born outside the country in which the study is conducted as "foreign-born"-a single label for a highly diverse population with variable TB risks. This may mask important TB epidemiologic trends and not accurately reflect local transmission patterns.

To examine how stratifying persons born outside Canada according to tuberculosis (TB) incidence in their birth country and other demographic factors refines our understanding of TB epidemiology and local TB transmission.

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