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Tuberculosis Infection in a Jail FREE

[+] Article and Author Information

The summary below is from the full report titled “Transmission of Tuberculosis in a Jail.” It is in the 19 October 1999 issue of Annals of Internal Medicine (volume 131, pages 557-563). The authors are T.F. Jones, A.S. Craig, S.E. Valway, C.L. Woodley, and W. Schaffner.


Ann Intern Med. 1999;131(8):557. doi:10.7326/0003-4819-131-8-199910190-00037
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What is the problem and what is known about it so far?

Tuberculosis is an infection that can affect the lungs, among other organs of the body. Tuberculosis infection of the lungs can be very contagious. Tuberculosis is common among people who have been in prison or jail.

Why did the researchers do this particular study?

The researchers studied an outbreak of tuberculosis in a jail in Memphis, Tennessee. They thought this information might help to find ways to prevent tuberculosis from spreading from one person to another.

Who was studied?

38 inmates and 5 guards from this jail who had tuberculosis.

How was the study done?

The researchers interviewed the inmates and guards who had tuberculosis and examined their medical records. They also performed special tests on the tuberculosis “germs” that the laboratory was able to culture (grow) from specimens from these people. These special tests are known as “DNA fingerprinting” and can help us know which infections are likely to be related to one another because they have similar genes.

What did the researchers find?

Of the 24 inmates who had positive cultures, 19 (79%) had tuberculosis with genes whose DNA matched that from other infected inmates. The 2 guards with positive cultures had tuberculosis with DNA tests that matched the most common form in the inmates. Inmates with tuberculosis had been incarcerated about 15 times on average. Since 1995, 43% of persons in Memphis with newly discovered tuberculosis had been inmates in this jail at some time.

What were the limitations of the study?

This experience at one jail in one city may not apply to other jails in other cities.

What are the implications of the study?

Jail is a common place where people can get tuberculosis infections. Inmates with tuberculosis can spread the infection to other inmates or to people who work in the jail. Tuberculosis can spread to the community when inmates and workers leave the jail. This study suggests that it is important to screen everyone who gets admitted to jail for tuberculosis. Those who have the infection should wear masks and stay apart from other people to prevent the spread on the infection.

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