PSU research connection between COVID-19 pneumonia and tuberculosis published in a Lancet group journal

       Prince of Songkla University tuberculosis researcher found that patients with pneumonia caused by COVID-19 at higher risk of developing pulmonary tuberculosis than the general population. These findings were published in "eClinical Medicine", a medical journal under the globally-renowed Lancet group.


       Dr. Ponlagrit Kumwichar and Prof. Dr. Virasakdi Chongsuvivatwong of the Department of Epidemiology, Faculty of Medicine, Prince of Songkla University, extensively analyzed data from COVID-19 patients with symptoms of pneumonia, and found that their risk of tuberculosis was as high as seven times that of the general population. The investigators obtained COVID-19 patients data during 2021 from the National Health Security Office. During that, there was an outbreak of Alpha and Delta variants in seven provinces in southern Thailand. The U.S. National Institute of Health (NIH) provided funding to support the study.

       Dr. Ponlagrit explained that the research work involved collecting data on tuberculosis medicine intake from early January 2022 onward. The data showed that the majority of TB patients had also received in-patient treatment for COVID-19. Thailand is a country with high burden of tuberculosis. One-third of all Thais have asymptomatic tuberculosis but do not transmit to others, a condition known as “latent tuberculosis”. Therefore, it is plausible that COVID-19 immune response induces fatigue of the immune system, particularly in cases with pneumonia, which subsequently increase the risk of tuberculosis. Investigators subsequently collected data from both COVID-19 and tuberculosis registries and compared the number of new tuberculosis cases among COVID-19 patients with history of pneumonia vs. people with no recorded history of COVID-19 infection, and found that the risk of tuberculosis among those with history of COVID-19 pneumonia was seven times higher than among those without history of COVID-19.

       Tuberculosis remains a public health issue in Thailand, although the disease is generally non-fatal, said Prof. Virasakdi. The majority of tuberculosis patients are HIV-positive and/or diabetics. The findings of this study suggested that individuals with pneumonia caused by COVID-19 infection should also be considered as a high-risk group. People with history of COVID-19 associated pneumonia should be encouraged to visit their physicians for follow-up tuberculosis examinations, and the public health system should consider the prioritization of this vulnerable group.

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