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Publication date: 
November 21, 2021


Household contacts of people with pulmonary tuberculosis (TB) have greater risk of developing TB. Recent guidelines conditionally recommended TB preventive treatment (TPT) for household contacts of any age living in TB high-incidence countries, expanding earlier guidance to provide TPT to household contacts under five. The all-age population of household contacts has not been estimated.


Our model-based estimation included 20 countries with >80% of incident TB globally in 2019. We developed country-specific distributions of household composition by age and sex using bootstrap resampling from health surveys and census data. We incorporated age-, sex-, year-, and location-specific estimates of pulmonary TB incidence from the Global Burden of Diseases, Injuries, and Risk Factors Study 2019 to estimate the population in each country sharing a household with someone with incident pulmonary TB, and quantified uncertainty using a Monte Carlo approach.


We estimate that 38 million [95% uncertainty interval (UI) 33- 43 million] individuals lived in a household with someone with incident pulmonary TB in 2019 in these 20 countries. Children under five made up 12% of the population with household exposure, while adults were 65%. Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Zambia, and Pakistan had the highest proportion of the population with household exposure, while India had the highest number of contacts (11·4 million, 95% UI 9·7-13·4 million).


Expanding TPT evaluation to household contacts of all ages in high-incidence countries could include a population more than 7-times larger than the under-5 contacts previously prioritized. This would substantially increase the impact of household contact investigation on reducing TB morbidity and mortality.


Ross JM, Xie Y, Wang Y, Collins JK, Horst C, Doody JB, Lindstedt P, Ledesma JR, Shapiro AE, Hay SI, Kyu HH, Flaxman AD. Estimating the population at high risk for tuberculosis through household exposure in high-incidence countries: a model-based analysis. EClinicalMedicine. 21 November 2022. doi:10.1016/j.eclinm.2021.101206.