Original Research19 October 2010
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    Nosocomial transmission has been described in extensively drug-resistant tuberculosis (XDR-TB) and HIV co-infected patients in South Africa. However, little is known about the rates of drug-resistant tuberculosis among health care workers in countries with high tuberculosis and HIV burden.


    To estimate rates of multidrug-resistant tuberculosis (MDR-TB) and XDR-TB hospitalizations among health care workers in KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa.


    Retrospective study of patients with drug-resistant tuberculosis who were admitted from 2003 to 2008 for the initiation of drug-resistant tuberculosis therapy.


    A public tuberculosis referral hospital in KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa.


    231 health care workers and 4151 non–health care workers admitted for initiation of MDR-TB or XDR-TB treatment.


    Hospital admission rates and hospital admission incidence rate ratios.


    Estimated incidence of MDR-TB hospitalization was 64.8 per 100 000 health care workers versus 11.9 per 100 000 non–health care workers (incidence rate ratio, 5.46 [95% CI, 4.75 to 6.28]). Estimated incidence of XDR-TB hospitalizations was 7.2 per 100 000 health care workers versus 1.1 per 100 000 non–health care workers (incidence rate ratio, 6.69 [CI, 4.38 to 10.20]). A higher percentage of health care workers than non–health care workers with MDR-TB or XDR-TB were women (78% vs. 47%; P < 0.001), and health care workers were less likely to report previous tuberculosis treatment (41% vs. 92%; P < 0.001). HIV infection did not differ between health care workers and non–health care workers (55% vs. 57%); however, among HIV-infected patients, a higher percentage of health care workers were receiving antiretroviral medications (63% vs. 47%; P < 0.001).


    The study had an observational retrospective design, is subject to referral bias, and had no information on type of health care work or duration of occupational exposure to tuberculosis.


    Health care workers in this HIV-endemic area were substantially more likely to be hospitalized with either MDR-TB or XDR-TB than were non–health care workers. The increased risk may be explained by occupational exposure, underlining the urgent need for tuberculosis infection–control programs.

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