World TB Day: Family centered contact tracing critical in preventing TB outbreaks

In comments made at the congressional briefing for World Tuberculosis Day, the importance of contact tracing was stressed by Dr. Jeffrey Starke, a leading childhood TB expert.

"Other than immunizations, it is probably the most cost-beneficial preventive exercise that can be done to protect children's health, literally anywhere in the world including the U.S.," Starke said. "It is by finding Uncle Eddie with TB, and investigating his nephews and nieces and sons and daughters, that we find children who have been exposed, can treat them appropriately, and prevent them from developing TB."

The most common form of tuberculosis transmission occurs within the family unit, and contact tracing has proven one of the most effective strategies when handling TB outbreaks. Contact tracing, however, is not without its challenges.

"The World Health Organization has called for this to be done for 30 years, but it has never been figured out how to operationalize it, how to actually make it happen in low resource countries," Starke said,

Internationally, TB remains the second leading cause of death from infectious disease, and globally, more than one-third of the world's population has been infected.