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Monday, 18 February, 2002, 12:23 GMT
TB link to ethnic minority poverty
TB bacteria
TB cases are on the rise in the UK
TB rates are higher among some ethnic minority communities - but a study now suggests that poverty may play a role.

Scientists from two Yorkshire health authorities looked at south Asians diagnosed with the lung illness in the town of Kirklees.

The background of everyone who arrived with the disease was checked.

The researchers found a strong link between deprivation and the disease, and found TB patients were also more likely to be unemployed.

This is first study which has come to this conclusion so clearly in regard to ethnic minority communities.

Other studies have produced opposing results.

No transport

In particular, it was spotted that ethnic minority patients with TB were those less likely to have central heating or a car.

It is suspected that poverty may make a big difference to the likelihood that a particular patient will fall ill with the disease.

Factors associated with poverty, such as poor housing conditions or nutrition, may weaken the immune system, and make active disease more likely.

Studies among Caucasian patients have shown this strong link.

TB threat

Dr Kamran Siddiqi, who co-authored the study, said: "Further work is needed to clarify the nature of any relationship between poverty and disease.

"In the meantime it is important to make sure that ethnic minority groups have good access to advice, screening and treatment for tuberculosis."

It is important to make sure that ethnic minority groups have good access to advice, screening and treatment for tuberculosis

Dr Kamran Siddiqi, report author
Currently, the incidence of TB is growing in the ethnic population - and falling among Caucasians.

In the 1998 National Survey of Tuberculosis, 56% of all notified cases were in people born outside the UK.

TB is most likely to attack the lungs, and the bacteria are passed from the coughing or sneezing of an infected person.

Although a person is infected, they may not develop any of the classic symptoms, such as a chronic cough.

This is because their immune system is able to keep the bacteria in check and prevent it from growing.

However, patients with a weak immune system may not be able to do this - at which point the tuberculosis bacteria starts to spread in the lung.

Treatment is with a variety of powerful antibiotics, taken over a long period to ensure the eradication of the bacteria.

However, some strains of the bacteria have now acquired some resistance to one or more of the antibiotics commonly used to treat them.

The research has been published in the journal "Communicable Disease and Public Health", published by the Public Health Laboratory Service.

See also:

14 Dec 99 | Medical notes
22 Jun 01 | Health
More accurate TB test unveiled
11 Jul 01 | Health
Fungal link offers TB hope
25 Jul 01 | Health
Britain hit by drug-resistant TB
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