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High incidence of false-negative TB tests in international adoptees

A study published online in the July edition of the journal Pediatrics revealed that many internationally adopted children showed positive skin tests for tuberculosis (TB) three months after receiving negative results.

The U.S. Office of Immigration Statistics reports that 20,705 children were adopted from overseas in 2006, and most of them come from regions where TB is prevalent. Therefore, initial exams for such internationally adopted children regularly include TB skin tests. Around 21% of those children test positive for infection. However, the researchers later retested children with initial negative results and learned that another 20% had latent TB infections (not the active disease).

TB is a bacterial infection that typically attacks the lungs (but other organs are susceptible as well). Left untreated, it can be fatal. Tuberculosis in the lungs or throat is communicable through airborne particles, and infection spreads easily, but not all infected people become ill. This “latent” infection is not communicable, but the carrier can become ill at a later time. Luckily, it is easily treated when detected. The U.S. Center for Disease Control and Prevention has a pamphlet on the disease, it?s symptoms and other information on its website.

Because of the high incidence of false-negative results in the research study, the authors suggest an initial TB skin test when foreign adoptees are brought home, and a repeat test in three months for those with a negative result.


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  1. Committe recommends Hepatitis-A vaccine for people in close contact with international adoptees | Adoption | Babies Online The Blog
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