Risk factors for pulmonary tuberculosis recurrence, relapse and reinfection: a systematic review and meta-analysis

V Vega, J Cabrera-Sanchez, S Rodríguez, C Seas, L Otero, P van der Stuyft, Tine Verdonck

Research output: Contribution to journalA1: Web of Science-articlepeer-review


Background The rate of pulmonary tuberculosis (TB) recurrence is substantial. Identifying risk factors can support the development of prevention strategies.

Methods We retrieved studies published between 1 January 1980 and 31 December 2022 that assessed factors associated with undifferentiated TB recurrence, relapse or reinfection. For factors reported in at least four studies, we performed random-effects meta-analysis to estimate a pooled relative risk (RR). We assessed heterogeneity, risk of publication bias and certainty of evidence.

Results We included 85 studies in the review; 81 documented risk factors for undifferentiated recurrence, 17 for relapse and 10 for reinfection. The scope for meta-analyses was limited given the wide variety of factors studied, inconsistency in control for confounding and the fact that only few studies employed molecular genotyping. Factors that significantly contributed to moderately or strongly increased pooled risk and scored at least moderate certainty of evidence were: for undifferentiated recurrence, multidrug resistance (MDR) (RR 3.49; 95% CI 1.86 to 6.53) and fixed-dose combination TB drugs (RR 2.29; 95% CI 1.10 to 4.75) in the previous episode; for relapse, none; and for reinfection, HIV infection (RR 4.65; 95% CI 1.71 to 12.65). Low adherence to treatment increased the pooled risk of recurrence 3.3-fold (95% CI 2.37 to 4.62), but the certainty of evidence was weak.

Conclusion This review emphasises the need for standardising methods for TB recurrence research. Actively pursuing MDR prevention, facilitating retention in treatment and providing integrated care for patients with HIV could curb recurrence rates. The use of fixed-dose combinations of TB drugs under field conditions merits further attention.
Original languageEnglish
JournalBMJ Open Respiratory Research
Issue number1
Number of pages10
Publication statusPublished - 2024


  • Clinical Epidemiology
  • Respiratory Infection
  • Tuberculosis


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