Tuberculosis transmission patterns among Spanish-born and foreign-born populations in the city of Barcelona

S. Borrell, M. Español, À Orcau, G. Tudó, F. March, J. A. Caylà, J. M. Jansà, F. Alcaide, N. Martín-Casabona, M. Salvadó, J. A. Martinez, R. Vidal, F. Sanchez, N. Altet, E. Rey, P. Coll, J. González-Martín

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

37 Scopus citations


During a 2-year period (2003-2004), tuberculosis (TB) transmission in Barcelona and the factors related to transmission among the Spanish- and foreign-born populations were studied by molecular epidemiology. Data were obtained from TB cases and Conventional Contact Tracing registries and genotyping was performed using restriction fragment length polymorphism (RFLP)-IS. 6110 and MIRU12 as a secondary typing method. Of the 892 TB cases reported, 583 (65.3%) corresponded to Spanish-born and 309 (34.6%) to foreign-born. Six hundred and eighty-seven cases (77%) were confirmed by culture. RFLP typing of 463/687 (67.4%) isolates was performed, revealing 280 (60.5%) unique and 183 (39.5%) shared patterns, which were grouped into 65 clusters. Spanish-born individuals were significantly more clustered than foreign-born individuals (44.6% vs. 28.8%; p 0.016). Clustering in foreign-born individuals was associated with HIV (p 0.051, odds ratio = 3.1, 95% confidence interval 1-10.9) and alcohol abuse (p 0.022), whereas, in the Spanish-born individuals, clustering was associated with age in the range 21-50 years, (p 0.024). Of the total clusters, 36/65 (55.3%) included only Spanish-born patients, whereas 22/65 (33.8%) included individuals from both populations. In mixed clusters, the index case was Spanish-born in 53% and foreign-born in 47%. Among the foreign-born, 2.8% were ill on arrival, 30% developed TB within the first year and 50.3% developed TB within the first 2 years; 58.3% were from South America. In conclusion, half of the foreign-born TB patients developed the disease during the first 2 years after arrival, which, in most cases, was the result of endogenous reactivation. Recent TB transmission among Spanish-born and foreign-born populations, as well as bidirectional transmission between communities, contributed significantly to the burden of TB in Barcelona, suggesting the need to improve Public Health interventions in both populations.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)568-574
Number of pages7
JournalClinical Microbiology and Infection
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 2010
Externally publishedYes


  • Immigration
  • Molecular epidemiology
  • Native-born
  • Transmission
  • Tuberculosis

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Microbiology (medical)
  • Infectious Diseases


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