Miners are at particular risk for tuberculosis (TB) infection due to exposure to silica dust and silicosis. The objectives of the present observational cohort study were to determine the prevalence of latent TB infection (LTBI) among aged German underground hard coal miners with silicosis or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) using two commercial interferon-gamma release assays (IGRAs) and to compare their performance with respect to predictors of test positivity.
Between October 2008 and June 2010, miners were consecutively recruited when routinely attending pneumoconiosis clinics for an expert opinion. Both IGRAs, the QuantiFERON®-TB Gold In-Tube (QFT) and the T-SPOT®.TB (T-SPOT), were performed at baseline. A standardized clinical interview was conducted at baseline and at follow-up. The cohort was prospectively followed regarding the development of active TB for at least two years after inclusion of the last study subject. Independent predictors of IGRA positivity were calculated using logistic regression.
Among 118 subjects (mean age 75 years), none reported recent exposure to TB. Overall, the QFT and the T-SPOT yielded similarly high rates of positive results (QFT: 46.6%; 95% confidence interval 37.6–55.6%; T-SPOT: 61.0%; 95% confidence interval 52.2–69.8%). Positive results were independently predicted by age ≥80 years and foreign country of birth for both IGRAs. In addition, radiological evidence of prior healed TB increased the chance of a positive QFT result fivefold. While 28 subjects were lost to follow-up, no cases of active TB occurred among 90 subjects during an average follow-up of >2 years.
Considering the high prevalence of LTBI, the absence of recent TB exposure, and the currently low TB incidence in Germany, our study provides evidence for the persistence of specific interferon-gamma responses even decades after putative exposure. However, the clinical value of current IGRAs among our study population, although probably limited, remains uncertain.
Background: Healthcare workers (HCW) are a risk group for tuberculosis (TB). That is why interferon-gamma release assay (IGRA) serial testing is performed on HCWs repeatedly exposed to infectious patients or materials. However, the variability of IGRA in serial testing is not yet well understood. We therefore analysed the prevalence of positive IGRA results as well as conversion and reversion rates in the serial testing of healthcare trainees in a low-incidence country.
Methods: In a prospective cohort study, all trainees (n=194) who began training as a nurse or healthcare worker at the Vivantes Healthcare Training Institute in Berlin on 1 October 2008 or 1 April 2009 were IGRA-tested at three different times during the three years of training. Socio-demographic data and possible risk factors (e.g., TB contacts, time spent abroad, area of work) were recorded by means of a standardised questionnaire. The QuantiFERON Gold In-Tube (QFT) was used as an IGRA.
Results: At the beginning of the training the cohort comprised 194 trainees. 70% were female. Their average age was 23. The prevalence of positive QFT was 2.1% (4/194). In the first follow-up test, 2 out of 154 (1.3%) tested IGRA-positive, 151 (98%) had constantly negative results. One IGRA was constantly positive (0.6%) and there was one conversion and one reversion (0.6% respectively). In the second follow-up (n=142) there was again one conversion (0.7%), one reversion and the one constantly positive test result in all three QFT. This trainee had active TB in 2002. All other test results were constantly negative (n=139; 98%). No case of active tuberculosis was diagnosed over the three-year observation period. Contact with TB patients was reported by 42 (29.6%) trainees during the follow-up. The two trainees with a conversion in QFT had no known contact with TB patients. Discordant results in the three consecutive QFT were observed in three trainees (2.1%). Using a borderline zone from 0.2–0.7 IU/mL reduced the number of trainees with discordant results from three to one – a reversion.
Conclusion: The prevalence rate of latent TB infection is low in healthcare trainees without known risk factors for TB infection in their history. The infection risk seems to be low in this population even though contacts with TB patients during the training were reported. Introducing a borderline zone for the interpretation of reversions and conversions in this cohort appears to be safe and reduces the number of discordant results and helps to avoid unnecessary chest X-rays and preventive treatment.
tuberculosis; serial testing; interferon-gamma release assay; healthcare workers; students; occupational disease; latent tuberculosis infection
Colonisation of healthcare workers (HCWs) with methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus strains (MRSA) is a challenge for any healthcare facility. Persistent carriage of MRSA among HCWs causes special problems, particularly in occupational-medical care. German occupational physicians responsible for healthcare facilities were therefore asked about their experience in managing MRSA-colonised HCWs.
In May 2012, 549 occupational physicians were asked in writing about in-house management of MRSA-colonised HCWs. The semi-standardised survey form contained questions about collaboration between the infection control team and the occupational physician, the involvement of the occupational physician in in-house management of MRSA carriers and the number of persistently colonised HCWs in 2011. The answers were intended to apply to the largest facility cared for by the occupational physician.
207 occupational physicians took part in the survey (response rate 38%). In 2011, 73 (35%) occupational physicians were responsible for the occupational-medical management of an average of four MRSA-colonised HCWs. Eleven doctors (5.3% of 207) managed a total of 17 persistently colonised HCWs. One of these 17 employees was dismissed. In the case of MRSA carriage among HCWs, most occupational physicians cooperated with the infection control team (77%) and 39% of occupational physicians were responsible for the occupational-medical management of the affected carrier. 65% of facilities had specified policies for the management of MRSA-colonised HCWs. After the first MRSA-positive screening result, 79% of facilities attempt to decolonise the affected employee. In 6% of facilities, the colonised HCWs were excluded from work while receiving decolonisation treatment. In 54% of facilities, infection control policies demand the removal of MRSA carriers from patient care.
Not all facilities have policies for the management of MRSA-colonised HCWs and there are major differences in occupational consequences for the affected HCWs. In order to protect both the employees and the patients, standards for the in-house management of MRSA colonisation in HCWs should be developed.
Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus; Colonisation; Persistent carriage; Healthcare worker; Occupational disease
In France, pre-employment screening for tuberculosis (TB) is performed for healthcare workers (HCW). Screening is repeated when exposure to TB patients or infectious material occurs. The results of these TB screenings were analysed in a retrospective analysis.
Tuberculin skin tests (TST) and interferon-gamma release assays (QuantiFERON® Gold In-Tube – QFT) were used to perform the TB screenings. The screening results of 637 HCWs on whom QFT was performed were taken from the records of the University Hospital of Nantes.
In three (0.5%) HCW, the QFT was indeterminate. In 22.2%, the QFT was positive. A second QFT was performed in 118 HCWs. The reversion rate was 42% (5 out of 17). The conversion rate was 6% (6 out of 98). A TST was performed on 466 (73.5%) of the HCWs. Results for TST > 10 mm were 77.4%. In those with a TST < 10 mm, QFT was positive in 14% and in those with a TST ≥ 10 mm, QFT was positive in 26.7%. Depending on the definition for conversion in the QFT, the annual attack rate was 4.1% or 7.3%. X-ray and pneumology consultation was based on positive QFT rather than TST alone (52 out of 56). No active TB was detected.
The TST overestimated the prevalence of LTBI in this cohort. The decision about X-ray and consultation regarding preventive treatment should be based on the QFT rather than the TST results. The high reversion rate should be taken into consideration when consulting with HCWs regarding preventive treatment. The high conversion rate seems to indicate that preventive measures such as wearing masks should be improved.
Tuberculosis; Healthcare workers; Interferon-gamma release assay
Working conditions in hospitals may endanger physicians' health and impair patient care. For this reason, an instrument was developed in the form of a questionnaire, in order to record problems in physicians' working conditions and to suggest possible ways of improving them.
A survey was performed with 571 hospital physicians. The questionnaire used is a shortened version of the extensive Instrument for Stress-related Job Analysis for Hospital Physicians. This short version contains 14 scales with 30 items on stressors and resources. For validation purposes, several scales were also used for well-being.
The factor structure of the short version of the instrument for hospital physicians was confirmed by confirmatory factor analysis. Cronbach's α and the analyses of interrater agreement with the parameter rwg(J) largely gave moderate to good results. The intercorrelations between the scales are mostly slight to moderate, indicating that the scales are largely independent. The bivariate correlations with different well-being variables are highly significant for most questionnaire scales. In multiple hierarchical regression analyses the scales explained a considerable amount of variance for different well-being variables. Taken together, this emphasizes the relevance of the scales for the stress process.
The short version of the Instrument for Stress-related Job Analysis for Hospital Physicians is a reliable and valid instrument, which can be used practically and economically for normal hospital work.
Workplace health promotion; Hospital physicians; Stress; Job analysis
Thyroid dysfunction is the commonest endocrinopathy associated with HCV infection due to interferon-based treatment. This comprehensive and systematic review presents the available evidence for newly developed thyroid antibodies and dysfunctions during interferon treatment (both single and combination) in HCV patients.
This systematic review was conducted in accordance with the PRISMA guidelines. The data generated were used to analyze the risk for thyroid dysfunctions during interferon (IFN) treatment in HCV patients. There was a wide range in the incidence of newly developed thyroid dysfunctions and thyroid antibodies in HCV patients during IFN treatment (both single and combination). The wide range of incidence also denoted the possibility of factors other than IFN treatment for thyroid-related abnormalities in HCV patients. These other factors include HCV viral factors, genetic predisposition, environmental factors, and patho-physiological factors. Variations in IFN dosage, treatment duration of IFN, definition/criteria followed in each study for thyroid dysfunction and irregular thyroid function testing during treatment in different studies influence the outcome of the single studies and jeopardise the validity of a pooled risk estimate of side effects of thyroid dysfunction. Importantly, reports differ as to whether the thyroid-related side effects disappear totally after withdrawal of the IFN treatment.
The present review shows that there is a wide range in the incidence of newly developed thyroid dysfunctions and thyroid antibodies in IFN treated HCV patients. This is a comprehensive attempt to collate relevant data from 56 publications across several nations about IFN (both mono and combination therapy) related thyroid dysfunction among HCV patients. The role of each factor in causing thyroid dysfunctions in HCV patients treated with IFN should be analyzed in detail in future studies, for a better understanding of the problem and sounder clinical management of the disease.
The effect of using a borderline zone for the interpretation of the interferon-γ release assay (IGRA) on the prediction of progression to active tuberculosis (TB) in healthcare workers (HCW) is analysed.
Data from a published study on TB screening in Portuguese HCW is reanalysed using a borderline zone for the interpretation of the IGRA. Testing was performed with the QuantiFERON-TB Gold In-Tube (QFT). The borderline zone for the QFT was defined as interferon (INF) in QFT ≥0.2 to <0.7 IU/mL. An X-ray was performed when the IGRA was positive (≥0.35 IU/mL) or typical symptoms were present. Sputum analysis was performed according to the X-ray or the presence of typical symptoms.
The cohort comprised 2,884 HCW with a QFT that could be interpreted. In 1,780 (61.7%) HCW, the QFT was <0.2 IU/mL. A borderline result was found in 341 (11.8%) and a QFT >0.7 IU/mL in 763 (26.3%) HCW. Fifty-seven HCW had a TB in their medical history, eight had a TB at the time of screening and progression to active TB was observed in four HCW. Two out of eight HCW (25%) with active TB at the time of screening had a QFT result falling into the borderline zone. One out of four HCW (25%) who progressed towards active TB after being tested with QFT had QFT results falling into the borderline zone. A second IGRA was performed in 1,199 HCW. In total, 292 (24.4%) HCW had at least one of the two IGRA results pertaining to the borderline zone.
Using a borderline zone for the QFT from 0.2 to 0.7 IU/mL should be administered with care, as active TB as well as progression to active TB might be overlooked. Therefore, the borderline zone should be restricted to populations with a low TB risk only.
Interferon-γ release assay; Tuberculosis; Healthcare workers
Various procedures, especially minimal invasive techniques using fluoroscopy, pose a risk of radiation exposure to orthopaedic staff. Anatomical sites such as the eyes, thyroid glands and hands are more vulnerable to radiation considering the limited use of personal protective devices in the workplace. The objective of the study is to assess the annual mean cumulative and per procedure radiation dose received at anatomical locations like eyes, thyroid glands and hands in orthopaedic staff using systematic review.
The review of literature was conducted using systematic search of the database sources like PUBMED and EMBASE using appropriate keywords. The eligibility criteria and the data extraction of literature were based on study design (cohort or cross-sectional study), study population (orthopaedic surgeons or their assistants), exposure (doses of workplace radiation exposure at hands/fingers, eye/forehead, neck/thyroid), language (German and English). The literature search was conducted using a PRISMA checklist and flow chart.
Forty-two articles were found eligible and included for the review. The results show that radiation doses for the anatomical locations of eye, thyroid gland and hands were lower than the dose levels recommended. But there is a considerable variation of radiation dose received at all three anatomical locations mainly due to different situations including procedures (open and minimally invasive), work experience (junior and senior surgeons),distance from the primary and secondary radiation, and use of personal protective equipments (PPEs). The surgeons receive higher radiation dose during minimally invasive procedures compared to open procedures. Junior surgeons are at higher risk of radiation exposure compared to seniors. PPEs play a significant role in reduction of radiation dose.
Although the current radiation precautions appear to be adequate based on the low dose radiation, more in-depth studies are required on the variations of radiation dose in orthopaedic staff, at different anatomical locations and situations.
Radiation; Dose; Orthopaedic
In this study, the frequency and consequences of aggressive assaults on employees in the German healthcare and welfare system were investigated.
A retrospective cross-sectional study.
Employees in the German healthcare system and their experiences of violence and aggression were examined in this study.
The sample consisted of 1973 employees from 39 facilities (6 facilities for the disabled, 6 hospitals and 27 outpatient and inpatient geriatric care facilities) who have regular contact with patients or clients.
Main outcome measures
The frequency of physical and verbal violence towards employees and the consequences of aggressive assaults were analysed.
56% of respondents had experienced physical violence and 78% verbal aggression. The highest frequency of physical violence was in inpatient geriatric care (63%) (p=0.000). Younger workers run a higher risk of being affected by physical violence than older colleagues (OR 1.8, 95% CI 1.3 to 2.4). There is also an increased risk of experiencing physical violence in inpatient geriatric care (OR 1.6, 95% CI 1.2 to 2.0). Around a third of workers feel seriously stressed by the violence experienced. The better the facility trained employees for dealing with aggressive and violent clients, the less risk employees ran of experiencing either verbal aggression (OR 0.5, 95% CI 0.4 to 0.7) or physical violence (OR 0.7, 95% CI 0.6 to 0.9). Training by the facility has a positive effect on experienced stress (OR 0.6, 95% CI 0.4 to 0.8).
Violence towards nursing and healthcare personnel occurs frequently. Every third respondent feels severely stressed by violence and aggression. Occupational support provisions to prevent and provide aftercare for cases of violence and aggression reduce the risk of incidents and of perceived stress. Research is needed on occupational support provisions that reduce the risk of staff experiencing verbal and physical violence and the stress that is associated with it.
Epidemiology; Public Health
Interferon-gamma release assays (IGRAs) are increasingly used in the tuberculosis (TB) screening of health care workers (HCWs). However, comparatively high rates of conversions and reversion as well as growing evidence of substantial within-subject variability of interferon-gamma responses complicate their interpretation in the serial testing of HCWs.
We conducted a systematic review on the repeat use of the two commercial IGRAs, the QuantiFERON-TB Gold or In-Tube version (QFT) and the T-SPOT.TB (T-SPOT), in the serial testing and its with-subject variability among HCWs in order to provide guidance on how to interpret serial testing results in the context of the periodic screening of subjects with an increased occupational risk of latent TB infection (LTBI) in countries with low and intermediate TB incidence rates. The Medline, Embase, and Cochrane databases were searched without restrictions. Retrieved articles were complemented by additional hand searched records. Only studies that used commercial IGRAs among HCWs apart from contact and outbreak investigations and those fulfilling further predefined criteria were included.
Overall, 20 studies, five using the T-SPOT and 19 using the QFT assay, were included. Fifteen studies met eligibility criteria for serial testing and five studies for within-subject variability. Irrespective of TB incidence rates in the study’s country of origin, reversion rates were consistently higher than conversion rates (range 22–71% vs. 1–14%). Subjects with baseline results around the diagnostic threshold were more likely to show inconsistent results on retesting. The within-subject variability of interferon-gamma responses was considerable across all studies systematically assessing it.
On the basis of reviewed studies we advocate using a borderline zone from 0.2–0.7 IU/ml for the interpretation of repeat QFT results in the routine screening of HCWs with an increased LTBI risk. Subjects with QFT results within this borderline zone, with suspected fresh infection, and those who are considered for preventive chemotherapy should be retested with the QFT within a period of about four weeks before preventive chemotherapy is recommended. However, the available data regarding the use of the T-SPOT in the serial testing of HCWs is remarkably limited and warrants further research.
Interferon-γ release assay; Health care workers; Latent tuberculosis infection; Occupational disease; Serial testing; Tuberculosis; Within-subject variability
Healthcare workers (HCW) are exposed to infectious agents. Disease surveillance is therefore needed in order to foster prevention.
The data of the compensation board that covers HCWs of non-governmental healthcare providers in Germany was analysed for a five-year period. For hepatitis B virus (HBV) and hepatitis C virus (HCV) infections, the period analysed was extended to the last 15 years. The annual rate of occupational infectious diseases (OIDs) per 100,000 employees was calculated. For needlestick injuries (NSI) a rate per 1,000 employees was calculated.
Within the five years from 2005 to 2009 a total of 384 HCV infections were recognised as OIDs (1.5/100,000 employees). Active TB was the second most frequent cause of an OID. While the numbers of HBV and HCV infections decreased, the numbers for active TB did not follow a clear pattern. Needlestick injuries (NSIs) were reported especially often at hospitals (29.9/1,000 versus 7.4/1,000 employees for all other HCWs).
Although they are declining, HCV infections remain frequent in HCWs, as do NSIs. Whether the reinforcement of the recommendations for the use of safety devices in Germany will prevent NSIs and therefore HCV infections should be closely observed.
Healthcare workers; Infections; Tuberculosis; Needlestick injuries; Blood-borne virus infections
Gamma interferon (IFN-γ) release assays (IGRAs) are used increasingly for the periodic tuberculosis (TB) screening of health care workers (HCWs), although data regarding the reproducibility and interpretation of serial testing results in countries with a low incidence of TB are scarce. The present study evaluated and compared the within-subject variability of dichotomous and continuous results of two commercial IGRAs, the QuantiFERON-TB Gold In-Tube (QFT) and the T-SPOT.TB (T-SPOT), in German HCWs during a 4-week period. Thirty-five immunocompetent HCWs with low or medium TB screening risk and without known recent TB exposure or tuberculin skin test application were tested repeatedly with both IGRAs at weekly intervals. A total of 158 valid results were obtained for each IGRA. Changes of about ±70% (QFT) and ±60% (T-SPOT) from the mean IFN-γ response accounted for 95% of the within-subject variability. However, according to the manufacturers' cutoffs, inconsistent results were observed more frequently for the QFT (28.6%; four conversions, six reversions) than for the T-SPOT (8.6%; three reversions; P < 0.001). The overall agreement between the IGRAs was good. Regression toward the means accounted for a significant decline in mean IFN-γ responses of about 25% between successive visits for both IGRAs. Although both assays were highly reliable and reproducible, we observed substantial within-subject variability and regression toward the means during a 4-week period, which should be considered when interpreting serial testing results in comparable populations and settings. Our data support the use of borderline zones for the interpretation of serial IGRA results and the retesting of borderline positive results before offering preventive chemotherapy.
Working conditions of nursery school teachers have not been scrutinized thoroughly in scientific research. Only a few studies have so far examined work-load and strain in this profession. Preferably, subjective perceptions should be corroborated by data that can be quantified more objectively and accurately. The aim of the present observational field study was to evaluate pedagogical staffs' workflow.
In 2009 eleven educators in a day care centre were observed throughout three complete workdays. A total of 250 working hours were recorded.
An educators' workday lasted on average 07:46:59 h (SD = 01:01:10 h). Within this time span, an average of 02:20:46 h (30.14%, SD = 00:28:07 h) were spent on caring, 01:44:18 h on playing (22.33%, SD = 00:54:12 h), 00:49:37 h on educational work (10.62%, SD = 00:40:09), and only 00:05:38 h on individual child contact (1.21%, SD = 00:04:58 h).
For the first time, educators' workflow in day care centres was studied in real time. Some of the educators' self-reported problems were corroborated. The results of this study form a basis upon which further investigations can be built and measures can be developed for an overall improvement of child care.
educator; working conditions; task analysis; workload; real-time observation
Vaccination of healthcare workers (HCWs) was made a high priority during the phase six pandemic of the novel influenza A H1N1 (pH1N1) virus. We surveyed adherence to pH1N1 vaccination and the incidence of pH1N1 infection between vaccinated and unvaccinated HCWs.
Employees at the S. João Hospital in Porto, Portugal, were offered pH1N1 vaccinations free of charge. Pandemrix® was the vaccine administered. As part of the pandemic plan, employees with influenza-like symptoms (ILS) were called upon to take an RT-PCR H1N1 test. If the test results were positive, they had to stay off work for at least 7 days. Sociodemographic data, vaccination status, contact with infectious patients, ILS and pH1N1 test results were documented in a standardised manner.
The survey population comprised 5,592 employees. The vaccination rate was 30.8% (n = 1,720) for pH1N1 and 50.4% (n = 2,819) for the 2009/2010 seasonal trivalent inactivated influenza vaccine (TIV). One mild anaphylactic reaction occurred after pH1N1 vaccination. Minor local side effects occurred more often after pH1N1 vaccination than after 2009/2010 seasonal TIV (38.0% vs. 12.3%). Pandemic H1N1 infection was diagnosed in 97 HCWs (1.7%). Compared to employees with no regular patient contact, nurses (2.8%) had the highest risk of pH1N1 infection (adjusted OR 3.8; 95% CI 1.2–6.8). Vaccination reduced the pH1N1 infection risk (OR 0.12; 95% CI 0.05–0.29). Vaccine effectiveness was 90.4% (95% CI 73.5–97.3%).
Vaccination reduced the pH1N1 infection risk considerably. The pandemic plan to contain the pH1N1 infection was successful. Nurses had the highest risk of pH1N1 infection and are therefore a target group for vaccination measures.
Pandemic influenza A H1N1; Healthcare workers; Vaccination
Interferon-γ release assays (IGRAs) for TB have the potential to replace the tuberculin skin test (TST) in screening for latent tuberculosis infection (LTBI). The higher per-test cost of IGRAs may be compensated for by lower post-screening costs (medical attention, chest x-rays and chemoprevention), given the higher specificity of the new tests as compared to that of the conventional TST. We conducted a systematic review of all publications that have addressed the cost or cost-effectiveness of IGRAs. The objective of this report was to undertake a structured review and critical appraisal of the methods used for the model-based cost-effectiveness analysis of TB screening programmes.
Using Medline and Embase, 75 publications that contained the terms "IGRA", "tuberculosis" and "cost" were identified. Of these, 13 were original studies on the costs or cost-effectiveness of IGRAs.
The 13 relevant studies come from five low-to-medium TB-incidence countries. Five studies took only the costs of screening into consideration, while eight studies analysed the cost-effectiveness of different screening strategies. Screening was performed in high-risk groups: close contacts, immigrants from high-incidence countries and healthcare workers. Two studies used the T-SPOT.TB as an IGRA and the other studies used the QuantiFERON-TB Gold and/or Gold In-Tube test. All 13 studies observed a decrease in costs when the IGRAs were used. Six studies compared the use of an IGRA as a test to confirm a positive TST (TST/IGRA strategy) to the use of an IGRA-only strategy. In four of these studies, the two-step strategy and in two the IGRA-only strategy was more cost-effective. Assumptions about TST specificity and progression risk after a positive test had the greatest influence on determining which IGRA strategy was more cost-effective.
The available studies on cost-effectiveness provide strong evidence in support of the use of IGRAs in screening risk groups such as HCWs, immigrants from high-incidence countries and close contacts. So far, only two studies provide evidence that the IGRA-only screening strategy is more cost-effective.
Interferon-gamma release assays (IGRA) are used for tuberculosis (TB) screening in healthcare workers (HCWs). However, data on specificity of IGRA in serial testing of HCWs is sparse. Therefore the specificity and the negative predictive value of the IGRA - QuantiFERON-TB Gold In-Tube (QFT) - in German nursing students was investigated.
194 nursing students at the start of their professional career were tested with the QFT. 14 nursing students were excluded from the specificity analysis, due to exposure to mycobacterium tuberculosis. Two of these subjects were QFT- positive. None of them developed disease during the year of follow-up. A study group of 180 students, all with very low risk of prior TB infection, remained in the specificity analysis. Subjects were monitored for at least two years with respect to the development of active TB disease. IGRA was performed at the start of the training and after one year.
The mean age of the study group (n = 180) was 23 years (range 18-53) with 70.9% female and 99.4% German born. The specificity of QFT was 98.9% (178/180; 95% CI 0.96-0.99); lowering the cut-off from 0.35 IU/ml to 0.1 IU/ml would have decreased specificity only slightly to 97.8% (176/180; 95% CI 0.94-0.99). Of the 154 nursing students available for re-testing, one student who initially scored positive reverted to negative, and one student initially negative converted to positive. None of the monitored group with initially negative QFT results developed TB disease, indicating a high negative predictive value of the IGRA in this population.
Following our data, QFT can serve as an effective tool in pre-employment TB screenings for HCWs. As its negative results were stable over time, specificity of the QFT in serial testing of HCWs is high. As the risk of acquiring TB infection in the German healthcare system appears to be low, our data supports the recommendation of performing TB screening only in those HCWs with known contact to TB patients or infectious materials.
The use of the 2009 H1N1 vaccine has generated much debate concerning safety issues among the general population and physicians. It was questioned if this is a safe vaccine. Therefore, we investigated the safety of an inactivated monovalent H1N1 pandemic influenza vaccine
We focused on the H1N1 pandemic influenza vaccine Pandemrix® and applied a self reporting questionnaire in a population of healthcare workers (HCWs) and medical students at a major university hospital.
In total, 4337 individuals were vaccinated, consisting of 3808 HCWs and 529 medical students. The vaccination rate of the employees was higher than 40%. The majority of individuals were vaccinated in November 2009. In total, 291 of the 4337 vaccinations were reported to lead to one or more adverse reactions (6.7%). Local reactions were reported in 3.8%, myalgia and arthralgia in 3.7%, fatigue in 3.7%, headache in 3.1%.
Our data together with available data from several national and international institutions points to a safe pandemic influenza vaccine.
adverse reaction; healthcare worker; immunization; novel H1N1 influenza
Results of systematic screening of healthcare workers (HCWs) for tuberculosis (TB) with the tuberculin skin test (TST) and interferon-γ release assays (IGRA) in a Portuguese hospital from 2007 to 2010 are reported.
All HCWs are offered screening for TB. Screening is repeated depending on risk assessment. TST and QuantiFERON Gold In-Tube (QFT) are used simultaneously. X-ray is performed when TST is > 10 mm, IGRA is positive or typical symptoms exist.
The cohort comprises 2,889 HCWs. TST and IGRA were positive in 29.5%, TST-positive but IGRA-negative results were apparent in 43.4%. Active TB was diagnosed in twelve HCWs - eight cases were detected during screening and four cases were predicted by IGRA as well as by TST. However, the progression rate in IGRA-positive was higher than in TST-positive HCWs (0.4% vs. 0.2%, p-value 0.06).
The TB burden in this cohort was high (129.8 per 100,000 HCWs). However, the progression to active TB after a positive TST or positive IGRA was considerably lower than that reported in literature for close contacts in low-incidence countries. This may indicate that old LTBI prevails in these HCWs.
Helicobacter pylori is a widely spread bacterium that mainly inhabits the gastric mucosa and can lead to serious illnesses such as peptic ulcer disease, gastric carcinoma and gastric MALT lymphoma. The oral-oral route seems to be the main transmission route. The fact that endoscopes are contaminated after being used to perform a gastroscopy leads one to question whether gastroenterologists and endoscopy nurses and assistants run a higher risk of infection.
A systematic search for literature was conducted in the MEDLINE and EMBASE databases and further publications were found in reference lists of relevant articles. Epidemiological studies on the occupational exposure of endoscopy personnel were collected and their quality was assessed. Pooled effect estimates were identified in a meta-analysis.
Of the 24 studies included in the analysis, 15 were considered to be methodologically good. Of these 15 studies, eight single studies showed a statistically significant increased risk of infection for gastroenterologists, and five for their assistants. Meta-analysis across all methodologically good studies found a statistically significant risk of 1.6 (95%CI 1.3-2.0) for doctors. The pooled effect estimates also indicated a statistically significant risk of Helicobacter pylori infection (RR 1.4; 95%CI 1.1-1.8) for assistants too.
When studies are stratified by medical and non-medical control groups, statistically significant risks can only be recognised in the comparison with non-medical controls.
In summary, our results demonstrated an increased risk of Helicobacter pylori infection among gastroenterological personnel. However, the choice of control group is important for making a valid assessment of occupational exposure risks.
During the past two decades, methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) has become increasingly common as a source of nosocomial infections. Most studies of MRSA surveillance were performed during outbreaks, so that results are not applicable to settings in which MRSA is endemic. This paper gives an overview of MRSA prevalence in hospitals and other healthcare institutions in non-outbreak situations in Western Europe.
A keyword search was conducted in the Medline database (2000 through June 2010). Titles and abstracts were screened to identify studies on MRSA prevalence in patients in non-outbreak situations in European healthcare facilities. Each study was assessed using seven quality criteria (outcome definition, time unit, target population, participants, observer bias, screening procedure, swabbing sites) and categorized as 'good', 'fair', or 'poor'.
31 observational studies were included in the review. Four of the studies were of good quality. Surveillance screening of MRSA was performed in long-term care (11 studies) and acute care (20 studies). Prevalence rates varied over a wide range, from less than 1% to greater than 20%. Prevalence in the acute care and long-term care settings was comparable. The prevalence of MRSA was expressed in various ways - the percentage of MRSA among patients (range between 1% and 24%), the percentage of MRSA among S. aureus isolates (range between 5% and 54%), and as the prevalence density (range between 0.4 and 4 MRSA cases per 1,000 patient days). The screening policy differed with respect to time points (on admission or during hospital stay), selection criteria (all admissions or patients at high risk for MRSA) and anatomical sampling sites.
This review underlines the methodological differences between studies of MRSA surveillance. For comparisons between different healthcare settings, surveillance methods and outcome calculations should be standardized.
Occupationally acquired infection with methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) is an issue of increasing concern. However, the number of cases of occupational disease (OD) due to MRSA in healthcare workers (HCWs) and the characteristics of such cases have not been reported for Germany.
Cases of OD due to MRSA were identified from the database of a compensation board (BGW) for the years 2006 and 2007 and the individual files analyzed. The variables extracted from these data were occupation, workplace, workplace exposure, and the reasons for recognizing a claim as an OD. Seven cases were selected due to the specific characteristics of their medical history and described in more detail.
Over a 2-year period, a total of 389 MRSA-related claims were reported to the BGW, of which 17 cases with infections were recognized as an OD. The reasons for not recognizing claims as an OD were either a lack of symptomatic infection or lack of a work-related MRSA exposure. The recognized cases were predominantly among staff in hospitals and nursing homes. The most frequent infection sites were ears, nose, and throat, followed by skin infections. Three cases exhibited secondary infection of the joints, associated with skin damage primarily caused by trauma. There was only one case in which a genetic link between an MRSA-infected index patient and MRSA in a HCW was documented. MRSA infections were recognized as an OD due to known contact with MRSA-positive patients or because workplace conditions were presumed to involve increased exposure to MRSA. Long-term incapacity resulted in four cases.
MRSA infection can cause severe health problems in HCWs that may lead to long-term incapacity. As recognition of HCW claims often depends on workplace characteristics, improved surveillance of MRSA infections in HCWs would facilitate the recognition of MRSA infections as an OD.
MRSA; Occupational disease; Infection; Healthcare worker; Surveillance
Aim: Data concerning conversion and reversion rates in the serial testing of healthcare workers (HCWs) is rare. So far, there is no consensus on how to define and interpret interferon-gamma release assays (IGRA) conversions and reversions, or how to deal with such results. We analysed conversion and reversion rates in the serial testing of HCWs using an IGRA.
Methods: The study population comprises 287 HCWs, who participated in routine occupational safety and health screening for latent tuberculosis infection (LTBI) with the QuantiFERON-TB® Gold In-Tube assay (QFT). Four different definitions for conversion and reversion were applied: 1) transgression or regression above/below the cut-off; 2) increase from <0.2 to >0.7 IU/ml or decrease from >0.7 to <0.2 IU/ml; 3) transgression or regression above/below the cut-off plus change of ≥0.50 IU/ml; and 4) transgression or regression above/below the cut-off plus change of ≥0.70 IU/ml.
Results: The highest conversion and reversion rates of 6.1% (95% CI 3.5 to 9.9) and 32.6% (95% CI 19.1 to 48.5) respectively were observed with the least stringent definition of negative to positive. The most stringent definition of an increase of ≥0.7 IU/ml above the cut-point produced the lowest conversion rate of 2.5% (95% CI 0.9 to 5.3). Using an uncertainty zone from 0.2 to 0.7 IU/ml gave low conversion (2.6%) and reversion rates (15.4%).
Conclusion: Our data confirmed the findings of previous studies that suggest that a simplistic dichotomous negative to positive definition of the IGRA might be deceptive because of the high number of spontaneous conversions and reversions. Therefore using an uncertainty zone around the cut-point (e.g. 0.2 to 0.7 IU/ml) could improve the discrimination between unspecific variation around the diagnostic cut-off and true conversion or reversion.
serial testing; interferon-gamma release assay; latent TB infection; healthcare workers
Hairdressers often come into contact with various chemical substances which can be found in hair care products for washing, dyeing, bleaching, styling, spraying and perming. This exposure can impair health and may be present as skin and respiratory diseases. Effects on reproduction have long been discussed in the literature.
A systematic review has been prepared in which publications from 1990 to 2010 were considered in order to specifically investigate the effects on fertility and pregnancy. The results of the studies were summarised separately in accordance with the type of study and the examined events.
A total of 2 reviews and 26 original studies on fertility disorders and pregnancy complications in hairdressers were found in the relevant databases, as well as through hand searches of reference lists. Nineteen different outcomes concerning fertility and pregnancy are analysed in the 26 original studies. Most studies looked into malformation (n = 7), particularly orofacial cleft. Two of them found statistically significant increased risks compared to five that did not. Small for gestational age (SGA), low birth weight (LBW) and spontaneous abortions were frequently investigated but found different results. Taken together the studies are inconsistent, so that no clear statements on an association between the exposure as a hairdresser and the effect on reproduction are possible. The different authors describe increased risks of infertility, congenital malformations, SGA, LBW, cancer in childhood, as well as effects from single substances.
On the basis of the identified epidemiological studies, fertility disorders and pregnancy complications in hairdressers cannot be excluded. Although the evidence for these risks is low, further studies on reproductive risks in hairdressers should be performed as there is a high public health interest.
Evidence for the utility of the new Mycobacterium tuberculosis (MTB) specific IFN-γ release assays in diagnosing latent tuberculosis infection (LTBI) is growing. However, data concerning conversion and reversion rates in serial testing of healthcare workers (HCWs) with an interferon-γ release assay are sparse.
Between February 2007 and September 2009, 670 HCWs in the University Hospital of Porto, Portugal were tested at least twice with QuantiFERON-TB® Gold In-Tube (QFT) for LTBI. The tuberculin skin test (TST) was performed simultaneously. QFT was considered positive if INF-γ ≥0.35 IU/mL. TST conversion was defined as an increase ≥10 or ≥6 mm compared to a baseline TST <10 mm.
The second QFT was positive in 4.8% of the 376 HCWs with an INF-γ concentration at baseline below 0.1 IU/mL but in 48.8% of the 41 HCWs with an INF-γ concentration of 0.2 to <0.35 IU/mL. Out of 74 HCWs with a baseline INF-γ concentration ≥3.0 IU/mL, 4 (5.4%) reversed while 27 out of 55 HCWs (49%) with a baseline INF-γ concentration ≥0.35 to <0.7 IU/mL reversed to a negative QFT. Those 61 HCWs with TST conversion (increase ≥10 mm) were most often (78.7%) negative in both consecutive QFTs.
Our data suggests the use of an uncertainty zone between 0.2 and 0.7 IU/mL in serial testing with QFT. As long as the knowledge regarding disease progression in QFT-positive persons is limited, persons pertaining to this zone should be retested before being offered preventive chemotherapy.
Serial testing; Interferon-γ release assay; Tuberculosis; Healthcare workers
The risk of tuberculosis (TB) in healthcare workers (HCWs) is related to its incidence in the general population, and increased by the specific risk as a professional group. The prevalence of latent tuberculosis infection (LTBI) in HCWs in Portugal using the tuberculin skin test (TST) and the interferon-γ release assays (IGRA) was analyzed over a five-year period.
A screening programme for LTBI in HCWs was conducted, with clinical evaluations, TST, IGRA, and chest radiography. Putative risk factors for LTBI were assessed by a standardised questionnaire.
Between September 2005 and June 2009, 5,414 HCWs were screened. The prevalence of LTBI was 55.2% and 25.9% using a TST ≥ 10 mm or an IGRA test result (QuantiFERON-TB Gold In-Tube) INF-γ ≥0.35 IU/mL as a criterion for LTBI, respectively. In 53 HCWs active TB was diagnosed. The number of HCWs with newly detected active TB decreased from 19 in the first year to 6 in 2008. Risk assessment was poorly related to TST diameter. However, physicians (1.7%) and nurses (1.0%) had the highest rates of active TB.
LTBI and TB burden among HCWs in Portugal is high. The screening of these professionals to identify HCWs with LTBI is essential in order to offer preventive chemotherapy to those with a high risk of future progression to disease. Systematic screening had a positive impact on the rate of active TB in HCWs either by early case detection or by increasing the awareness of HCWs and therefore the precautions taken by them.