Chest x-rays for immigrants in the U.K. might be missing TB

According to research by an Imperial College London team, the current practice of performing chest X-rays on immigrants to the United Kingdom for incidence of tuberculosis may be causing doctors to miss many cases.

The team said that using new blood tests to detect the lung-attacking bacterial infection might prevent a substantial number of cases from occurring, the BBC reports. The number of TB cases has risen dramatically in the U.K. during the past decade, in part because of an increase in cases among people who come to the country from overseas.

According to professor Ajit Lalvani of the Imperial College London, blood tests should be used to pick-up cases where people are carrying the TB infection but will not develop the active form for several years.

"By treating people at that early stage, we can prevent them from developing a serious illness and becoming infectious,” Lalvani said, according to the BBC. “Crucially, this wider screening could substantially reduce TB incidence while remaining cost-effective. Our findings provide the missing evidence-base for the new national strategy to expand immigrant screening."

The National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence, a United Kingdom health watchdog, updated its guidelines on TB screening in March.

"We are pleased that this research backs up the latest NICE guidance on TB screening,” a Department of Health spokesperson said, the BB reports., “We expect the local NHS to consider the best ways of tackling this issue in their area."