Slide 015 Epidemiologic Basis of Tuberculosis Control
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From the study in British Columbia and Saskatchewan, the proportion of transmissions attributable to smear-positive and smear-negative cases can be calculated.  The figure shows that sputum smear examination is a relatively insensitive tool to identify pulmonary tuberculosis (it identified only about 60 per cent of culture-confirmed cases in this study), but is a very sensitive tool to identify sources of infection.

Sputum smear-positive patients are the major sources of transmission of tubercle bacilli in the community.

Studies with more modern techniques (DNA fingerprinting) have basically confirmed this observation.

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Last update: September 10, 2010