Tuberculosis (TB) remains one of the leading causes of death among infectious diseases worldwide. Despite its low incidence rates in countries of Western Europe and North America, the resurgence of TB in Eastern Europe and the increased immigration from high-incidence countries imply that extreme vigilance is required in order to detect early, treat, and isolate all new cases. In this study, we analyzed the prevalence and predictors of tuberculin skin testing positivity in Hellenic Army recruits.
The study population consisted of 953 Greek military recruits enlisted inthe Army during the period from November 2005 toFebruary 2006. Tuberculin skin testing was performed on all study subjects upon enrollment, according to the routine procedures. A tuberculin skin test reaction size >15 mm was considered positive for all study participants. Epidemiological data regarding age, repatriation status, geographic area of residence, smoking habits, and parental occupation were collected by means of personal interviews. In addition, body weight, height, and body mass index were measured.
The mean age of the studied subjects (± SD) was 23.5 (± 6.4) years. The overall prevalence of tuberculin positivity was 3.9% (37/953), and bivariable analysis showed that it was associated with lower weight (p = 0.047) and repatriation status (p < 0.001). Tuberculin skin testing was positive in 2.6% of natives (24/900) and 24.5% of repatriates (13/53). A backward, stepwise multivariable logistic regression model showed that only repatriation status was independently associated with tuberculin positivity (p < 0.001; odds ratio [OR]: 14.1; 95% confidence interval [CI]: 6.5–30.3).
While the incidence of tuberculosis in the native Greek population is low, and comparable to other Western European countries, the extremely high tuberculin positivity in repatriated persons underscores the importance of actively screening for TB in order to promptly identify, isolate, and treat cases of active and latent infection.