Tuberculosis in Austria

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Changed on: 08.04.2019

Tuberculosis in Austria

Tuberculosis, caused by the bacterium Mycobacterium tuberculosis, is one of the most common and dangerous infectious diseases worldwide. More than a third of the world’s population has been infected with tuberculosis bacteria, according to estimations by the World Health Organization WHO (on tuberculosis in Europe: Five out of 100 people infected with tuberculosis bacteria will suffer a tuberculosis outbreak within two years; another five will develop tuberculosis symptoms over the course of the following decades.

The disease is usually transmitted via microscopically small droplets, so-called aerosols, shed by coughing, sneezing, singing or speaking. However, contact over several hours in closed, badly aired rooms would be necessary to transfer the bacteria. Short periods of contact, especially outdoors, do not pose any relevant risks.

Situation in Austria

The cases of new infections per year in Austria dropped from 1,007 cases in 2005 to 583 cases in 2015, the lowest number ever recorded in Austria. Notification data from 2016 show an increase to a total of 644 cases in the last year. Though, this number is also affected by the higher migration figures, partly from high-incidence countries, over the past two years. The incidence of tuberculosis in Austria remains low at 7.3/100,000 inhabitants (215: 6.7/100,000 inhabitants). Fourteen cases of multi-drug-resistant tuberculosis (2015: 11 cases) and two cases of extremely drug-resistant tuberculosis (2015: 1 case) were diagnosed in 2016.



Tuberkulose 2002-2018: 1-Jahres-Inzidenz gesamt; bei Personen mit Geburtsland Österreich, bei Personen mit anderem Geburtsland
Tuberkulose 2018 nach Altersgruppen (Personen mit Geburtsland Österreich, Personen mit anderem Geburtsland)
Tuberkulose 2002-2018: Inzidenz, Fälle nach Personen mit Geburtsland Österreich, Personen mit anderem Geburtsland

Genetic Fingerprint of Each Tuberculosis Bacterium

AGES has been the National Reference Centre for Tuberculosis since 2002. Tuberculosis cases are recorded and assessed using laboratory diagnostics and epidemiological methods until the treatment is completed in close cooperation with the Ministry for Health and Women’s Affairs, the authorities of the provincial governments, hospitals, local physicians and care facilities. Since the new Tuberculosis Act came into effect in 2016, all positive isolates taken from tuberculosis patients are sent to the National Reference Laboratory for Tuberculosis.

One of Reference Centre‘s key tasks is creating a genetic fingerprint for every bacteria isolate submitted: this makes it possible to recognise an accumulation of the infection early and find the relevant transmission paths. AGES has been analysing positive isolates on a routine basis since 2016 using next generation sequencing. Health authorities can use this data to investigate outbreaks and trace infection chains, even across borders. Thus, Austria’s part in the accumulated presence of multi-drug-resistant tuberculosis in Europe has been recognised internationally.