Britain will be 'swamped' by TB unless high-risk
immigrants are routinely given blood tests, experts warn
A leading doctor has warned that Britain will be ‘swamped’ by tuberculosis unless new measures to diagnose the disease in immigrants are introduced.
The disease, which was rife in Britain until the 1950s, is an increasing and worrying problem in urban areas. Rising immigration has seen a surge in cases in the last 20 years.Under current rules, new immigrants from countries where TB is common are required to have chest X-rays before being allowed into Britain.
But doctors argue this century-old method only spots active TB once it is already destroying the lungs – meaning cases are often diagnosed far too late.
Other countries such as the U.S. use a blood test, which can detect the latent TB in those not displaying any symptoms. Cases have fallen since this technique was introduced in 2007.
At the British Thoracic Society conference this week, Peter Davies of the Liverpool Heart and Chest Hospital, said urgent changes were needed to halt the decades-long rise in TB cases.
He told The Times: ‘The tide has been coming in for 20 years, it’s been getting bigger and bigger and if we don’t do something we will be swamped with TB as we were 100 years ago.’
TB is caused by a bacterium that spreads through saliva. The disease used to be known as consumption because the bacterium ate holes in the lungs. From 50,000 cases a year in Britain in the 1950s, the rate fell to 5,000 in the 1980s.
Last year there were just over 9,000 cases of TB - a five per cent increase on the year before, according to figures from the Health Protection Agency.
The main risk area is still London with 3,588 cases reported in 2011, accounting for 40 per cent of the UK total. And nearly three quarters of those suffering the disease were those not born in the UK.
Professor Davies and his peers recommend that people from the Indian subcontinent and sub-Saharan Africa, where rates are highest, should be given the blood test when registering with a GP. Those found to have latent TB can easily eliminate it with a course of antibiotics.
Speaking about the blood test, he said: ‘It’s a no-brainer. If we screen for latent TB we would eliminate the majority of cases of people coming into this country. Now we’ve got the blood tests, for goodness’ sake let’s use them.’
He added that with TB claiming up to 500 deaths a year, the numbers were as many as HIV. The homeless and drug addicts should also be screened because new infections have become more common among these groups, he continued.
Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/health/article-2244512/Britain-swamped-TB-unless-tests-diagnose-brought-21st-century-experts-warn.html#ixzz2EOfK2E79
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