Latent TB screening advised only for those at risk of developing active TB

We refer to Mr Li Ze Zong's suggestion to screen and treat our pioneers for latent tuberculosis (Cover TB screening as part of Pioneer Generation Package; March 27).

Screening for latent tuberculosis (TB) is recommended only for persons at high risk of developing active TB disease.

The intention is to provide treatment to prevent the development of active TB disease.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) does not recommend latent TB screening based on age alone, but according to an individual's risk factors.

One important consideration in post-screening treatment of latent TB in persons aged 65 years and above is that they are at higher risk of experiencing adverse effects, such as liver inflammation.

Therefore, latent TB screening is recommended only when the risk of progression to active TB outweighs the risk of latent TB treatment.

National control measures are in place to reduce the risk of TB transmission in Singapore, in line with WHO's guidelines.

To curtail the spread of TB, the Tuberculosis Control Unit carries out contact tracing and screening of close contacts of active and infectious cases to ensure that those at risk of infection are tested and receive appropriate treatment.

Persons diagnosed with latent TB are advised preventive treatment as necessary, while those with active TB are started on treatment immediately and placed on medical leave.

Once treatment starts, the person will rapidly become non-infectious and there is no further risk of exposure.

Everyone plays an important role in preventing the spread of TB. Individuals who display symptoms of active TB, such as an unexplained prolonged cough of three weeks or more, should seek medical attention early to ensure prompt diagnosis and treatment.

Cynthia Chee (Dr)
Director, Tuberculosis Control Unit Senior Consultant
Department of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine
Tan Tock Seng Hospital

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 05, 2018, with the headline 'Latent TB screening advised only for those at risk of developing active TB'. Print Edition | Subscribe