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The production of consumption: addressing the impact of mineral mining on tuberculosis in southern Africa


Abstract Background Miners in southern Africa experience incident rates of tuberculosis up to ten times greater than the general population. Migration to and from mines may be amplifying tuberculosis epidemics in the general population. Discussion Migration to and from mineral mines contributes to HIV risks and associated tuberculosis incidence. Health and safety conditions within mines also promote the risk of silicosis (a tuberculosis risk factor) and transmission of tuberculosis bacilli in close quarters. In the context of migration, current tuberculosis prevention and treatment strategies often fail to provide sufficient continuity of care to ensure appropriate tuberculosis detection and treatment. Reports from Lesotho and South Africa suggest that miners pose transmission risks to other household or community members as they travel home undetected or inadequately treated, particularly with drug-resistant forms of tuberculosis. Reducing risky exposures on the mines, enhancing the continuity of primary care services, and improving the enforcement of occupational health codes may mitigate the harmful association between mineral mining activities and tuberculosis incidence among affected communities. Summary Tuberculosis incidence appears to be amplified by mineral mining operations in southern Africa. A number of immediately-available measures to improve continuity of care for miners, change recruitment and compensation practices, and reduce the primary risk of infection may critically mitigate the negative association between mineral mining and tuberculosis.

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