FRIDAY, March 19 (HealthDay News) -- There is low risk of tuberculosis (TB) being transmitted between airline passengers, and, contrary to current World Health Organization guidelines, tracing and screening airline passengers who may have been exposed to TB is an inefficient use of limited resources for disease control, according to a review in the March issue of The Lancet Infectious Diseases.
Ibrahim Abubakar, Ph.D., of the University of East Anglia in Norwich, U.K., reviewed the medical literature and identified 39 studies that examined the risks of transmission of TB during commercial air travel. The author screened the studies and ultimately analyzed 13 studies that involved more than 4,328 airline passengers from six nations.
Abubakar found that only two studies offered evidence of TB transmission associated with air travel, while the majority of studies did not. In total, 2,761 passengers and crew were screened in accordance with the WHO guidelines, yet only 10 were found to have converted from a negative to a positive tuberculin skin reaction. Significantly, there were no cases of active tuberculosis found that resulted from transmission during air travel.
"The analysis suggests that there is reason to doubt the value of actively screening air passengers for infection with Mycobacterium tuberculosis and that the resources used might be better spent addressing other priorities for the control of tuberculosis," the author writes.
The author reported he was a member of the working group that produced the third revision of the WHO guidelines and that he also chaired the European Center for Disease Prevention and Control working group on TB and air travel.