Background Latent tuberculosis infection (LTBI) is the major source of active TB and is an obstacle to the strategy of World Health Organization to end TB by 2035. In Ethiopia, there are hundreds of prisons and they are conducive settings for the transmission of TB and could serve as the sources of infection to the general public. However, there is little data on the epidemiology of TB in prisons in Ethiopia. The objective of the present study was to estimate the prevalence of LTBI and evaluate associated risk factors in prisons in East Wollega Zone in western Ethiopia. Methods A cross-sectional design and systematic sampling technique were used to select 352 prisoners from a total of 2620 prisoners during the two months (May and June, 2019). The selected inmates were consented for their willingness to participate in the study. Thereafter, they were interviewed and 2ml of blood sample was collected from each prisoner and screened for LTBI using interferon-gamma release assay (IGRA). The data were analyzed using SPSS version 25 and logistic regression was used to model the likelihood of LTBI occurrence and to identify risk factors associated with LTBI. Results The prevalence of LTBI was 51.2% (95% CI: 46.45-57%) and higher prevalence was recorded in males (53%) than in females (43.5%) although the difference was not significant. Prisoners whose age ≥45 years (AOR = 2.48, 95%CI, 1.04-5.9), who chewed khat (AOR = 2.27; 95% CI, 1.27-4.19), who were prisoned over a year (AOR = 1.81, 95%CI, 1.04-3.18) and who were in overcrowded pens (AOR = 1.91, 95% CI, 1.002-3.65) were at higher risk of LTBI. Conclusions The prevalence of LTBI in prisoners in West Wollega Zone of western Ethiopia was high and could serve as sources of infection to the public. Hence optimum handling of prisoners, and regular follow up and treatment of TB cases in prisons were recommended to minimize the burden of TB in the Zone.
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