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Minerva Pneumologica 2013 December;52(4):149-55

language: English

Tuberculosis among indigenous populations

Dehghani K. 1, Menzies D. 2

1 Public Health Department, James Bay Cree Nation Territory, QC, Canada;
2 Montreal Chest Institute, McGill University, Montreal, QC, Canada


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It is estimated that the total global population of indigenous people is approximately 370 million. In most countries indigenous people constitute a small minority of the total population, and are often marginalized due to a variety of socio-historical factors. Although health data of these indigenous populations are limited, what is available indicates that the health of the indigenous population is considerably worse than the general population in many countries. Historically, tuberculosis (TB) has been considered to be an indicator of socio-economic disparity. Therefore, it is not surprising that indigenous populations are disproportionally affected by TB. We have conducted a brief review of the available published literature on the burden of TB infection and disease among indigenous populations. This review indicates that the risk of TB infection in indigenous populations varies widely between different countries, and even between different populations within some countries. Moreover, although the burden of TB has significantly decreased among many indigenous populations in the last 50 years, in certain populations such as the Inuit of Northern Canada and Greenland, TB incidence has increased substantially since the 1990s, with evidence of ongoing transmission to children and young adults. We found few studies that examined the medical, socio-economic, health system and environmental factors that are associated with TB infection or disease in indigenous populations. The underlying reasons for the differences in current burden and recent trends in TB infection and disease among indigenous populations remain uncertain. This brief review highlights the need for improved surveillance strategies to quantify TB burden and trends, as well as high quality studies to understand the determinants of TB in indigenous populations globally.

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