Author(s): DO Matuka, T. Duba, Z. Ngcobo, F. Made, L. Muleba, T. Nthoke and TS Singh

Source: Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2021, 18, 10130.

Abstract: This study aimed to detect airborne Mycobacterium tuberculosis (MTB) at nine public health facilities in three provinces of South Africa and determine possible risk factors that may contribute to airborne transmission. Personal samples (n = 264) and stationary samples (n = 327) were collected from perceived high-risk areas in district, primary health clinics (PHCs) and TB facilities. Quantitative real-time (RT) polymerase chain reaction (PCR) was used for TB analysis. Walkabout observations and work practices through the infection prevention and control (IPC) questionnaire were documented. Statistical analysis was carried out using Stata version 15.2 software. Airborne MTB was detected in 2.2% of samples (13/572), and 97.8% were negative. District hospitals and Western Cape province had the most TB-positive samples and identified risk areas included medical wards, casualty, and TB wards. MTB-positive samples were not detected in PHCs and during the summer season. All facilities reported training healthcare workers (HCWs) on TB IPC. The risk factors for airborne MTB included province, type of facility, area or section, season, lack of UVGI, and ineffective ventilation. Environmental monitoring, PCR, IPC questionnaire, and walkabout observations can estimate the risk of TB transmission in various settings. These findings can be used to inform management and staff to improve the TB IPC programmes.

Keywords: TB; airborne transmission; occupational health; healthcare workers; environmental sampling; real-time PCR; TB infection control; ventilation; UVGI; hierarchy of controls