Tuberculosis incidence in Cameroonian prisons: A 1-year prospective study

J Noeske, N F Ndi, G Amougou Elo, S Mbondi Mfondih


Background. Tuberculosis (TB) transmission in prisons is reported to be high worldwide. However, a recent systematic review identified only 19 published studies reporting TB incidence in prisons, most of them from the last century and only one from sub-Saharan Africa.

Objectives. To assess the persisting risk of smear-positive pulmonary tuberculosis (PTB) among prison populations benefiting from a comprehensive TB/HIV control programme in Cameroon compared with that in the community.

Methods. This descriptive and prospective study evaluated PTB incidence rates over a 1-year period. The study population was inmates of 10 major prisons, sampled by convenience, comprising about 45% of the country’s prison population. As PTB incident cases, all prisoners with incident PTB after a prison stay of ≥90 days were considered. The prison TB incidence rate was compared with that of the corresponding male population.

Results. The mean annual PTB incidence in Cameroonian prisons in this study was 1 700 cases in 100 000 person-years at risk, the incidence rate ratio being 9.4 (95% confidence interval 8.1 - 10.9).

Conclusion. Findings suggest that internationally recommended prison TB control measures alone may not help protect prisoners from within-prison spread of TB. Imprisonment policies and conditions therefore require fundamental changes. 

Authors' affiliations

J Noeske, Independent Senior Consultant, National Tuberculosis Programme, Yaounde, Cameroon

N F Ndi, Penitentiary Administration, Ministry of Justice, Yaounde, Cameroon

G Amougou Elo, Regional Delegation of Prison Administration, N’Gaoundere, Cameroon

S Mbondi Mfondih, Health/AIDS Programme, German International Cooperation, Yaounde, Cameroon

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tuberculosis; incidence; prison; cameroon

Cite this article

South African Medical Journal 2014;104(3):209-211. DOI:10.7196/SAMJ.7384

Article History

Date submitted: 2013-08-19
Date published: 2014-01-20

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