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The prison setting has been often cited as a possible reservoir of tuberculosis (TB) including multidrug-resistant (MDR)-TB. This is particularly true in low-income, high TB prevalence countries in Sub-Saharan Africa. A systemic literature review was done to assess the prevalence, drug resistance and risk factors for acquiring TB in the prison population. Our review indicated a high prevalence of TB in prisons which is reported to be 3- to 1000-fold higher than that found in the civilian population, indicating evidence and the need for public health policy formulation. In addition, high levels of MDR and extensively drug-resistant (XDR)-TB have been reported from prisons, which is a warning call to review prison TB control strategy. Multiple risk factors such as overcrowding, poor ventilation, malnutrition, human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), and others have fuelled the spread of TB in prisons. Furthermore, the impact extends beyond the prison walls; it affects the civilian population, because family visits, prison staff, and members of the judiciary system could be potential portals of exit for TB transmission.

The health of prisoners is a neglected political and scientific issue. Within these background conditions, it is suggested that political leaders and scientific communities should work together and give special attention to the control of TB and MDR-TB in prisons. If not, TB in prisons will remain a neglected global problem and threatens national and international TB control programmes. Further researches are required on the prevalence and drug resistance of smear-negative TB in prisons. In addition, evidence of the circulating strains and transmission dynamics inside prisons is also warranted.

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Biadglegne F, Rodloff AC, Sack U. Epidemiol Infect. 2015 Apr;143(5):887-900.