The incidence of tuberculosis (TB) is increasing all over the world, including in countries with a high standard of living and good social security. Denmark represents such a region. Furthermore, it is a small country (5 million inhabitants) with a long tradition in TB control, including a centralization of the bacteriological diagnostic facility. The present study was intended to analyze the transmission of Mycobacterium tuberculosis in a country in which TB has low endemicity by a combination of conventional epidemiological approaches and DNA fingerprinting techniques, whereby individual bacterial strains can be traced. M. tuberculosis isolates from 92% of all new cases of bacteriologically verified TB in Denmark during 1992 were subjected to IS6110 DNA fingerprinting to visualize the DNA restriction fragment length polymorphism (RFLP) patterns of the isolated strains. The data obtained from the RFLP analyses were interpreted by using demographic data, such as age, sex, ethnicity, and residence, for the patients. The risk factors among the patients for being part of an active chain of transmission, as opposed to demonstrating reactivation of a previously acquired latent infection, were estimated by statistical analyses. The magnitude of TB transmission in 1992 in Denmark was determined, and transmitted infections were shown to comprise at least one quarter of the total number of cases. Almost half of the TB cases involved patients of foreign origin. However, most of these isolates showed unique DNA fingerprint patterns and were rarely part of an active chain of transmission. The major chains of recent transmission were localized to distinct geographical regions in the country.(ABSTRACT TRUNCATED AT 250 WORDS
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