Objective: To determine the factors associated with the development of multidrug-resistant tuberculosis among patients at a New York City Hospital and to investigate possible nosocomial transmission.

Design: A retrospective case-control study and tuberculin skin test survey.

Patients: Twenty-three patients with tuberculosis whose isolates were resistant to at least isoniazid and rifampin (case patients) were compared with patients with tuberculosis whose isolates were susceptible to all agents tested (controls). Tuberculin skin test conversion rates were compared among health care workers assigned to wards where patients with tuberculosis were frequently or rarely admitted.

Setting: A large, teaching hospital in New York City.

Measurements:Mycobacterium tuberculosis isolates from case patients and controls were typed by restriction fragment length polymorphism analysis.

Results: Case patients were younger (median age, 34 compared with 42 years; P = 0.006), more likely to be seropositive for HIV (21 of 23 compared with 11 of 23 patients; odds ratio, 11.5; 95% Cl, 1.9 to 117), and more likely to have had a previous hospital admission within 7 months before the onset of tuberculosis (19 of 23 compared with 5 of 23 patients; odds ratio, 17.1 ; Cl, 3.3 to 97), particularly on one ward (12 of 23 compared with 0 of 23 patients; odds ratio, undefined; P = 0.002). Health care workers assigned to wards housing case patients were more likely to have tuberculin skin test conversions than were health care workers assigned to other wards (11 of 32 compared with 1 of 47 health care workers; P < 0.001). Few (6 of 23) case patients were placed in acid-fast bacilli isolation, and no rooms tested had negative pressure. Of 16 available multi-drug-resistant isolates obtained from case patients, 14 had identical banding patterns by restriction fragment length polymorphism analysis. In contrast, M. tuberculosis isolates from controls with drug-susceptible tuberculosis had patterns distinct from each other and from those of case patients.

Conclusions: These data suggest nosocomial transmission of multidrug-resistant tuberculosis occurred from patient to patient and from patient to health care worker and underscore the need for effective acid-fast bacilli isolation facilities and adherence to published infection control guidelines in health care institutions.

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