In low-incidence countries, tuberculosis mainly affects migrants, mostly resulting from reactivation of latent tuberculosis infection (LTBI) acquired in high-incidence countries before migration. A nationwide primary care-based LTBI testing and treatment programme for migrants from high-incidence countries was therefore established in high tuberculosis incidence areas in England. We aimed to assess the effectiveness of this programme.
We did a retrospective, population-based cohort study of migrants who registered in primary care between Jan 1, 2011, and Dec 31, 2018, in 55 high-burden areas with programmatic LTBI testing and treatment. Eligible individuals were aged 16-35 years, born in a high-incidence country, and had entered England in the past 5 years. Individuals who tested interferon-γ release assay (IGRA)-negative were advised about symptoms of tuberculosis, whereas those who tested IGRA-positive were clinically assessed to rule out active tuberculosis and offered preventive therapy. The primary outcome was incident tuberculosis notified to the national Enhanced Tuberculosis Surveillance system.
Our cohort comprised 368 097 eligible individuals who had registered in primary care, of whom 37 268 (10·1%) were tested by the programme. 1446 incident cases of tuberculosis were identified: 166 cases in individuals who had IGRA testing (incidence 204 cases [95% CI 176-238] per 100 000 person-years) and 1280 in individuals without IGRA testing (82 cases [77-86] per 100 000 person-years). Overall, in our primary analysis including all diagnosed tuberculosis cases, a time-varying association was identified between LTBI testing and treatment and lower risk of incident tuberculosis (hazard ratio [HR] 0·76 [95% CI 0·63-0·91]) when compared with no testing. In stratified analysis by follow-up period, the intervention was associated with higher risk of tuberculosis diagnosis during the first 6 months of follow-up (9·93 [7·63-12·9) and a lower risk after 6 months (0·57 [0·41-0·79]). IGRA-positive individuals had higher risk of tuberculosis diagnosis than IGRA-negative individuals (31·9 [20·4-49·8]). Of 37 268 migrants who were tested, 6640 (17·8%) were IGRA-positive, of whom 1740 (26·2%) started preventive treatment. LTBI treatment lowered the risk of tuberculosis: of 135 incident cases in the IGRA-positive cohort, seven cases were diagnosed in the treated group (1·87 cases [95% CI 0·89-3·93] per 1000 person-years) and 128 cases were diagnosed in the untreated group (10·9 cases [9·16-12·9] per 1000 person-years; HR 0·14 [95% CI 0·06-0·32]).
A low proportion of eligible migrants were tested by the programme and a small proportion of those testing positive started treatment. Despite this, programmatic LTBI testing and treatment of individuals migrating to a low-incidence region is effective at diagnosing active tuberculosis earlier and lowers the long-term risk of progression to tuberculosis. Increasing programme participation and treatment rates for those testing positive could substantially impact national tuberculosis incidence.
National Institute for Health Research Health Protection Research Unit in Respiratory Infections.

Copyright © 2022 The Author(s). Published by Elsevier Ltd. This is an Open Access article under the CC BY-NC-ND 4.0 license. Published by Elsevier Ltd.. All rights reserved.