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TB outreach 'a good investment'

The National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) releases new guidance about tuberculosis (TB) in hard-to-reach communities, following Health Protection Agency figures that show that in 2011 there were 9,042 reported cases of TB in the UK, an increase of 5 percent from new cases reported in 2010.

The Today programme's Louise Jackson went to visit an outreach programme in South London and hears how programmes like this are set up to screen high risk groups such as immigrants and drug users who do not access services.

Professor Mike Kelly, director of public health at NICE, told the Today programme's James Naughtie that TB is a disease that is associated with disadvantaged groups.

He said that 40 percent of cases in the UK are focused in London and "the key problem is the disengagement from the primary care system" of population who are often not registered with a GP.

Proactive outreach systems are very important because it is a tricky disease to treat because patients have to continue to take antibiotics for six months.

"The point of this [NICE] guidance, he said, they do not fall through the gaps and provide a service that will meet their needs".

He continued to say that it is "a good investment" to find these cases because the cost of someone with drug resistant TB rises from £15,000 to £75,000 and "someone who is infectious with TB can go on to infect another ten to 15 people during the course of a year".

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