Novel approach to estimate tuberculosis transmission in primary care clinics in sub-Saharan Africa: protocol of a prospective study.

Zürcher, Kathrin; Morrow, Carl; Riou, Julien; Ballif, Marie; Koch, Anastasia Sideris; Bertschinger, Simon; Liu, Xin; Sharma, Manuja; Middelkoop, Keren; Warner, Digby; Wood, Robin; Egger, Matthias; Fenner, Lukas (2020). Novel approach to estimate tuberculosis transmission in primary care clinics in sub-Saharan Africa: protocol of a prospective study. BMJ open, 10(8), e036214. BMJ Publishing Group 10.1136/bmjopen-2019-036214

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Tuberculosis (TB) transmission is difficult to measure, and its drivers are not well understood. The effectiveness of infection control measures at healthcare clinics and the most appropriate intervention strategies to interrupt transmission are unclear. We propose a novel approach using clinical, environmental and position-tracking data to study the risk of TB transmission at primary care clinics in TB and HIV high burden settings in sub-Saharan Africa.


We describe a novel and rapid study design to assess risk factors for airborne TB transmission at primary care clinics in high-burden settings. The study protocol combines a range of different measurements. We will collect anonymous data on the number of patients, waiting times and patient movements using video sensors. Also, we will collect acoustic sound recordings to determine the frequency and intensity of coughing. Environmental data will include indoor carbon dioxide levels (CO2 in parts per million) and relative humidity. We will also extract routinely collected clinical data from the clinic records. The number of Mycobacterium tuberculosis particles in the air will be ascertained from dried filter units using highly sensitive digital droplet PCR. We will calculate rebreathed air volume based on people density and CO2 levels and develop a mathematical model to estimate the risk of TB transmission. The mathematical model can then be used to estimate the effect of possible interventions such as separating patient flows or improving ventilation in reducing transmission. The feasibility of our approach was recently demonstrated in a pilot study in a primary care clinic in Cape Town, South Africa.


The study was approved by the University of Cape Town (HREC/REF no. 228/2019), the City of Cape Town (ID-8139) and the Ethics Committee of the Canton Bern (2019-02131), Switzerland. The results will be disseminated in international peer-reviewed journals.

Item Type:

Journal Article (Further Contribution)


04 Faculty of Medicine > Pre-clinic Human Medicine > Institute of Social and Preventive Medicine (ISPM)

Graduate School:

Graduate School for Cellular and Biomedical Sciences (GCB)

UniBE Contributor:

Zürcher, Kathrin, Riou, Julien Yannis, Ballif, Marie, Bertschinger, Simon Michael, Egger, Matthias, Fenner, Lukas


600 Technology > 610 Medicine & health
300 Social sciences, sociology & anthropology > 360 Social problems & social services




BMJ Publishing Group


[4] Swiss National Science Foundation




Andrea Flükiger-Flückiger

Date Deposited:

01 Sep 2020 17:22

Last Modified:

05 Dec 2022 15:40

Publisher DOI:


PubMed ID:


Uncontrolled Keywords:

infectious diseases primary care public health tuberculosis




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