Research Article: Tuberculosis non-communicable disease comorbidity and multimorbidity in public primary care patients in South Africa

Date Published: April 11, 2018

Publisher: AOSIS

Author(s): Karl Peltzer.


Little is known about the prevalence of non-communicable disease (NCD) multimorbidity among tuberculosis (TB) patients in Africa.

The aim of this study was to assess the prevalence of NCD multimorbidity, its pattern and impact on adverse health outcomes among patients with TB in public primary care in three selected districts of South Africa.

In a cross-sectional survey, new TB and TB retreatment patients were interviewed, and medical records assessed in consecutive sampling within 1 month of anti-TB treatment. The sample included 4207 (54.5% men and 45.5% women) TB patients from 42 primary care clinics in three districts. Multimorbidity was measured as the simultaneous presence of two or more of 10 chronic conditions, including myocardial infarction or angina pectoris, arthritis, asthma, chronic lung disease, diabetes mellitus, hypertension, dyslipidaemia, malignant neoplasms, tobacco and alcohol-use disorder.

The prevalence of comorbidity (with one NCD) was 26.9% and multimorbidity (with two or more NCDs) was 25.3%. We identified three patterns of multimorbidity: (1) cardio-metabolic disorders; (2) respiratory disorders, arthritis and cancer; and (3) substance-use disorders. The likelihood of multimorbidity was higher in older age, among men, and was lower in those with higher education and socio-economic status. The prevalence of physical health decreased, and common mental disorders and post-traumatic stress disorder increased with an increase in the number of chronic conditions.

High NCD comorbidity and multimorbidity were found among TB patients predicted by socio-economic disparity.

Partial Text

The global burden of non-communicable diseases (NCDs), in particular cancer, cardiovascular disease, diabetes and chronic respiratory disease, accounts for two-thirds of mortality worldwide,1 and the fastest increase in NCDs has been recorded in low- and middle-income countries, particularly in sub-Saharan Africa.2 This rapid increase of NCDs may be because of an ageing population, rapid urbanisation, changes in environmental factors and lifestyle changes.3,4 South Africa is confronted with a large burden of disease from both chronic infections and NCDs.5 ‘People living with chronic communicable diseases such as tuberculosis (TB) and human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) are most likely to develop comorbidity with NCDs’.6 With the increase of chronic communicable and NCDs, primary health care services are confronted with a huge challenge.5

The study, probably the first study in Africa, found a high prevalence of TB-NCD comorbidity (26.9%) and TB-NCD multimorbidity (25.3%), much higher than in a study in Brazil with 1.14% TB-NCD multimorbidity.9 One explanation for the low multimorbidity prevalence in the Brazil study may be the use of health records as recruitment strategy, because the latter may under report diseases.14 The findings of this study may be similar to a primary care study in South Africa, including the chronic conditions of HIV, TB, diabetes and hypertension, showing a multimorbidity of 22.6%.8 In comparison, the multimorbidity in NCD primary care patients in South Africa was 14.4%.29 In agreement with the Brazil study,9 this study found that the most common comorbid NCDs included mental or substance-use disorders, hypertension, cardiovascular disorders and type 2 diabetes. As found in a previous study among NCD primary care patients in South Africa,7 this study found that significant unmet treatment needs existed, ranging from 25.0% for ischaemic heart disease or angina, 27.4% for hypertension, 33.9% for type 2 diabetes to 97.7% for alcohol-use disorders.

This is the first study in Africa to provide evidence of TB-NCD comorbidity and multimorbidity, its pattern and impact on health outcomes. The high prevalence of NCD multimorbidity found calls for an increased attention on the routine delivery of multimorbidity interventions. Older TB male patients of lower socio-economic status seem to be at the highest risk of multimorbidity, in particular in the presence of substance-use disorders.




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