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Barts Health NHS Trust hails UK first in latent tuberculosis testing for pregnant migrants

PUBLISHED: 15:00 07 April 2020 | UPDATED: 16:01 07 April 2020

Veronica White, from St Bartholomew’s Hospital, said: “Screening for and then treating latent TB is an invaluable way of reducing active TB cases in the future.

Veronica White, from St Bartholomew’s Hospital, said: “Screening for and then treating latent TB is an invaluable way of reducing active TB cases in the future." Picture: Barts Health NHS Trust

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A hospital trust is offering tuberculosis testing for pregnant migrants in a nationwide first.

Dr Heinke Kunst said: “The programme provides a unique opportunity for migrant women to be screened and treated for LTBI to avoid the risk of developing active TB.Dr Heinke Kunst said: “The programme provides a unique opportunity for migrant women to be screened and treated for LTBI to avoid the risk of developing active TB." Picture: Queen Mary, University of London

Clinics at Barts Health NHS Trust, which operates Newham Hospital, The Royal London and Whipps Cross, are offering screening at all three hospitals for latent tuberculosis infection (LTBI).

The UK has one of the highest tuberculosis (TB) rates in western Europe, with 4,655 cases in 2018, including 1,691 in the capital.

People with LTBI have TB bacteria in their bodies but have no symptoms because it isn’t active.

The screening for tuberculosis in pregnancy (STOP) programme, funded by the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR), is being led by researchers at Queen Mary University of London and has seen 200 women already.

Dr Heinke Kunst, an honorary consultant at Barts and Queen Mary lecturer, said: “The programme provides a unique opportunity for migrant women to be screened and treated for LTBI to avoid the risk of developing active TB.

“Treatment for LTBI is given after breast feeding has stopped and will reduce the risk of active TB.

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“This also allows migrant women who may not have GPs and who may not have had any contact with healthcare, to be screened for TB,” she added.

Women with LTBI have a high risk of developing active TB during pregnancy and after child birth, which carries a high risk of complications and poor outcomes for mum and baby.

LTBI screening involves one blood test in addition to those routinely offered to patients in antenatal care.

Veronica White, from St Bartholomew’s Hospital, said: “Screening for and then treating latent TB is an invaluable way of reducing active TB cases in the future.

“We are delighted that we have the funding for this project from the NIHR.”

The service is for pregnant women aged 16 to 35 who entered the UK from countries with high TB rates such as the Indian subcontinent or sub-Saharan Africa.

To be eligible for screening on the programme, patients should have entered the UK within the last five years and have been previously living in a country with high TB numbers for six months or more.

Patients who have been booked for an appointment in antenatal care at the Royal London Hospital, Newham Hospital or Whipps Cross Hospital are due to be screened.


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