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Signs aid early TB diagnosis

A series of 'red flag' symptoms can help GPs make an early

diagnosis of tuberculosis, a new study concludes.

Researchers found sweating, involvement of lymph nodes and weight loss were all much more strongly indicative of TB than coughing.

Patients who presented with sweating in the previous six months were at a 13-fold increased risk of being diagnosed with TB.

There was also a seven-fold increased risk with lympha-denopathy and a nine-fold increase with weight loss. But those who presented with a cough had only at a 2.5-fold increased risk.

Study leader Dr Sarah Anderson, research fellow in primary care and population sciences at the Royal Free and University College London Medical School, said the findings would help GPs identify cases: 'TB does have a classic collection of symptoms and signs, but when a patient first presents to a GP they may attend with only one or two.

'Raised awareness of the strength of association, in particular if found in a patient with a cough, could alert GPs to the diagnosis of TB earlier.'

The study of 3,000 patients with TB in the general practice research database compared patient records in the six months before diagnosis with records in the same patients 18 to 12 months before.

The research, which will be presented at the Health Protection Agency's annual conference in September, found repeated consultation with chest infections also increased the risk of a TB diagnosis.

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