Childhood tuberculosis disease is difficult to diagnose and manage and is an under-recognised cause of morbidity and mortality. Reported data from Canada do not focus on childhood tuberculosis or capture key epidemiologic, clinical and microbiologic details. The purpose of this study was to assess demographics, presentation and clinical features of childhood tuberculosis in Canada.
We conducted prospective surveillance from 2013 to 2016 of over 2700 paediatricians plus vertical tuberculosis programmes for incident tuberculosis disease in children younger than 15 years in Canada using the Canadian Paediatric Surveillance Program (CPSP).
In total, 200 cases are included in this study. Tuberculosis was intrathoracic in 183 patients of whom 86% had exclusively intrathoracic involvement. Central nervous system tuberculosis occurred in 16 cases (8%). Fifty-one per cent of cases were hospitalised and 11 (5.5%) admitted to an intensive care unit. Adverse drug reactions were reported in 9% of cases. The source case, most often a first-degree relative, was known in 73% of cases. Fifty-eight per cent of reported cases were Canadian-born Indigenous children. Estimated study rates of reported cases (per 100 000 children per year) were 1.2 overall, 8.6 for all Indigenous children and 54.3 for Inuit children.
Childhood tuberculosis may cause significant morbidity and resource utilisation. Key geographies and groups have very high incidence rates. Elimination of childhood tuberculosis in Canada will require well-resourced community-based efforts that focus on these highest risk groups.