Achieving tuberculosis (TB) elimination in low TB incidence countries requires identification and treatment of individuals at risk for latent TB infection (LTBI). Persons travelling to high TB incidence countries are potentially at risk for TB exposure. This systematic review and meta-analysis estimates incident LTBI and active TB among individuals travelling from low to higher TB incidence countries.
Five electronic databases were searched from inception to 18 February 2020. We identified incident LTBI and active TB among individuals travelling from low (<10 cases/100 000 population) to intermediate (10–100/100 000) or high (>100/100 000) TB incidence countries. We conducted a meta-analysis and meta-regression using a random effects model of log-transformed proportions (cumulative incidence). Subgroup analyses investigated the impact of travel duration, travel purpose and TB incidence in the destination country.
Our search identified 799 studies, 120 underwent full-text review, and 10 studies were included. These studies included 1 154 673 travellers observed between 1994 and 2013, comprising 443 health care workers (HCW), 1 068 636 military personnel and 85 594 general travellers/volunteers. We did not identify any studies that estimated incidence of LTBI or active TB among people travelling to visit friends and relatives (VFRs). The overall cumulative incidence of LTBI was 2.3%, with considerable heterogeneity. Among individuals travelling for a mean/median of up to 6 months, HCWs had the highest cumulative incidence of LTBI (4.3%), whereas the risk was lower for military (2.5%) and general travellers/volunteers (1.6%). Meta-regression did not identify a difference in incident LTBI based on travel duration and TB incidence in the destination country. Five studies reported cases of active TB, with an overall pooled estimate of 120.7 cases per 100 000 travellers.
We found that travelling HCWs were at highest risk of developing LTBI. Individual risk activities and travel purpose were most associated with risk of TB infection acquired during travel.