Half of all tuberculosis cases in the UK are among newly-arrived immigrants from the Indian subcontinent, reports The Lancet Infectious Diseases, the journal that published two reports naming New Delhi as the source of a new superbug.
One in five immigrants from the subcontinent and one in three from sub-Saharan Africa carry latent TB to the UK, says the study. Around 430,000 Indians, including visitors, go to the UK every year.
"UK's TB rates almost doubled between 1998 and 2009, largely because 75% of the 9,000 infections are among the rising numbers of foreign-born immigrants like me," study author Dr Ajit Lalvani, of the National Heart and Lung Institute, Imperial College, London, told HT .
Making a case for screening all immigrants for latent TB a few months after their arrival, Lalvani said: "This won't lower immigration rates as the UK doesn't reject those with TB. It will help treat and prevent their developing a serious illness and becoming infectious."
UK policy requires all immigrants from countries with an incidence higher than 40 per 100,000 to get a chest X-ray on arrival for active TB, but detection is just 0.01%.
Unlike immigrants from sub-Saharan Africa, those from the subcontinent are not screened for latent TB.
Tuberculosis occurs in 185 per 100,000 people in India, said WHO's global TB report, 2009.