The Lancet Public Health, Volume 6, May 2021,
Background: Community-based active case-finding interventions might identify and treat more people with tuberculosis disease than standard case detection. We aimed to assess whether active case-finding interventions can affect tuberculosis epidemiology in the wider community. Methods: We did a systematic review by searching PubMed, Embase, Scopus, and Cochrane Library for studies that compared tuberculosis case notification rates, tuberculosis disease prevalence, or tuberculosis infection prevalence or incidence in children, between populations exposed and unexposed to active case-finding interventions. We included studies published in English between Jan 1, 1980, and April 13, 2020. Studies of active case-finding in the general population, in populations perceived to be at high risk for tuberculosis, and in closed settings were included, whereas studies of tuberculosis screening at health-care facilities, among household contacts, or among children only, and studies that screened fewer than 1000 people were excluded. To estimate effectiveness, we extracted or calculated case notification rates, prevalence of tuberculosis disease, and incidence or prevalence of tuberculosis infection in children, and compared ratios of these outcomes between groups that were exposed or not exposed to active case-finding interventions. Results: 27 883 abstracts were screened and 988 articles underwent full text review. 28 studies contributed data for analysis of tuberculosis case notifications, nine for prevalence of tuberculosis disease, and two for incidence or prevalence of tuberculosis infection in children. In one cluster-randomised trial in South Africa and Zambia, an active case-finding intervention based on community mobilisation and sputum drop-off did not affect tuberculosis prevalence, whereas, in a cluster-randomised trial in Vietnam, an active case-finding intervention based on sputum tuberculosis tests for everyone reduced tuberculosis prevalence in the community. We found inconsistent, low-quality evidence that active case-finding might increase the number of cases of tuberculosis notified in populations with structural risk factors for tuberculosis. Interpretation: Community-based active case-finding for tuberculosis might be effective in changing tuberculosis epidemiology and thereby improving population health if delivered with high coverage and intensity. If possible, active case-finding projects should incorporate a well designed, robust evaluation to contribute to the evidence base and help elucidate which delivery methods and diagnostic strategies are most effective. Funding: WHO Global TB Programme.