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ORIGINAL ARTICLE
Year : 2022  |  Volume : 11  |  Issue : 4  |  Page : 415-422

Effect of COVID-19 pandemic on incidence of mycobacterial diseases among suspected tuberculosis pulmonary patients in Tehran, Iran


1 Mycobacteriology Research Centre, National Research Institute of Tuberculosis and Lung Diseases, Shahid Beheshti University of Medical Sciences, Tehran, Iran
2 Department of Biotechnology, School of Advanced Technology in Medicine, Shahid Beheshti University of Medical Sciences, Tehran, Iran
3 Clinical Tuberculosis and Epidemiology Research Center, National Research Institute of Tuberculosis and Lung Diseases, Shahid Beheshti University of Medical Sciences, Tehran, Iran
4 Department of Global Public Health, Karolinska Institute, Stockholm, Sweden

Correspondence Address:
Poopak Farnia
Department of Biotechnology, School of Advanced Technology in Medicine, Shahid Beheshti University of Medical Sciences, Tehran
Iran
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None


DOI: 10.4103/ijmy.ijmy_167_22

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Background: Recent pandemic of coronavirus SARS-CoV-2 (COVID-19) caused limitations in the country's strategies to fight against mycobacterial infections. The aim of this study was to compare the suspected tuberculosis (TB) pulmonary patients before and during the COVID-19 pandemic (January 2018–December 2021) who were referred to the National Reference TB Laboratory (NRL TB), Tehran, Iran. The mycobacterial isolated strains were identified and compared with previous data. Methods: A total of 16,899 clinical samples collected from 7041 suspected pulmonary TB patients were received from 2018 to 2021. Primary isolation of Mycobacterium isolates was done on Löwenstein–Jensen medium. Then, the DNA was extracted from acid-fast bacillus culture-positive samples and identification was performed by IS6110, Hsp65, and 16S-23S rRNA genes using polymerase chain reaction (PCR), PCR-restriction fragment length polymorphism, and nested PCR methods. Results: A total of 11679 specimens (69.1%) from 4866 suspected TB patients were collected in 2018–2019 and 5220 specimens (30.8%; from 2175 patients) in 2020–2021. Out of 11679 specimens, 2046 samples that belong to 852 patients were infected with Mycobacterium tuberculosis, and the remaining were non-TB Mycobacterium (NTM) species (n = 244) isolated from 102 patients. The cultures for 12894 specimens were either negative (76.3%) or contaminated (845/16899; 5%). A comparison of the total number of patients who were referred for diagnosis and treatment (954/666 patients, P > 0.05) showed a 30.1% reduction during the COVID-19 pandemic. Although, with these low number of patients, the significant increases of NTM species (P < 0.05) among suspected TB pulmonary patients were observed. Besides, new species of NTM, for example, Mycobacterium peregrinum and Mycobacterium montefiorense, were detected. For the past 20 years, these two species were not reported from pulmonary patients in Iran. Conclusions: During the pandemic of COVID-19, the TB diagnosis network became irregular, as a consequence, many patients could not reach the treatment center, and this could increase the circulation of mycobacterial diseases (TB and NTM). The study shows the emergence of new opportunistic NTM species also.


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