Should European countries screen asylum-seeking children for tuberculosis?
Many children seeking asylum in the European Union originate from countries where tuberculosis (TB) infection is prevalent. A new research letter in the European Respiratory Journal investigates whether routinely screening those children for TB is an effective way to protect public health and to make sure that children who are affected are treated and well cared for.
The authors of the paper report that 34,000 children seeking asylum were screened for TB in the Netherlands over the course of the study. Of these, no children under 5 years old were diagnosed, and only two cases of TB infection were found in children aged 5 – 11 years. All cases of TB infection of the lungs were found in children aged 12 years and over.
The authors suggest that the recent Dutch guidelines recommending screening for TB are changed to recommend that only children seeking asylum aged 12-17 years are screened if they come from countries where TB infection is prevalent (more than 100 cases per 100,000).
The authors suggest that further research is needed to fine tune the screening protocols in the Netherlands and other countries, taking into account factors like how common TB infection is in the originating country, age and timing of screening after arrival. This approach could be a cost-effective way to protect the health of children seeking asylum and safeguard TB control in European countries.
Read the article abstract