The seasonality of tuberculosis, sunlight, vitamin D, and household crowding

Tom Wingfield, Samuel G. Schumacher, Gurjinder Sandhu, Marco A. Tovar, Karine Zevallos, Matthew R. Baldwin, Rosario Montoya, Eric S. Ramos, Chulanee Jongkaewwattana, James J. Lewis, Robert H. Gilman, Jon S. Friedland, Carlton A. Evans

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

56 Scopus citations


Background. Unlike other respiratory infections, tuberculosis diagnoses increase in summer. We performed an ecological analysis of this paradoxical seasonality in a Peruvian shantytown over 4 years. Methods. Tuberculosis symptom-onset and diagnosis dates were recorded for 852 patients. Their tuberculosisexposed cohabitants were tested for tuberculosis infection with the tuberculin skin test (n = 1389) and QuantiFERON assay (n = 576) and vitamin D concentrations (n = 195) quantified from randomly selected cohabitants. Crowding was calculated for all tuberculosis-affected households and daily sunlight records obtained. Results. Fifty-seven percent of vitamin D measurements revealed deficiency (<50 nmol/L). Risk of deficiency was increased 2.0-fold by female sex (P < .001) and 1.4-fold by winter (P < .05). During the weeks following peak crowding and trough sunlight, there was a midwinter peak in vitamin D deficiency (P < .02). Peak vitamin D deficiency was followed 6 weeks later by a late-winter peak in tuberculin skin test positivity and 12 weeks after that by an early-summer peak in QuantiFERON positivity (both P < .04). Twelve weeks after peak QuantiFERON positivity, there was a midsummer peak in tuberculosis symptom onset (P < .05) followed after 3 weeks by a late-summer peak in tuberculosis diagnoses (P < .001). Conclusions. The intervals from midwinter peak crowding and trough sunlight to sequential peaks in vitamin D deficiency, tuberculosis infection, symptom onset, and diagnosis may explain the enigmatic late-summer peak in tuberculosis.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)774-783
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Infectious Diseases
Issue number5
StatePublished - Sep 1 2014


  • Crowding
  • Household
  • Seasonality
  • Sunlight
  • Tuberculosis
  • Vitamin D

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Immunology and Allergy
  • Infectious Diseases


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