A teaching hospital has had to contact more than 1,000 staff and patients after a “unique, unexpected transmission” of tuberculosis between a patient, a staff member and another patient.

Brighton and Sussex University Hospitals Trust was forced to declare a serious incident because of the number of staff involved and the reported harm, according to its board papers.

Whole genome sequencing has shown the three people had the same strain of TB which is not one routinely seen in the hospital, although it is a relatively common strain. The trust is working closely with Public Health England and currently 321 patients and 745 staff are part of the investigation.  

The transmission to staff has also been reported to the Health and Safety Executive under the Reporting of Injuries, Diseases and Dangerous Occurrences Regulations 2013.

HSJ understands one of the patients was treated in hospital around 18 months ago, but staff who had been in contact with them at that time were only contacted in the middle of this year. 

The trust said that routine testing of one patient’s family and friends began in February and contact tracing was extended to other patients and staff in May. 

“All those contacted were told they may have come into contact with a patient with TB and were advised to make an appointment with the trust for screening,” the trust said in a statement. “Testing is ongoing but no cases of active TB have currently been identified.”

The trust added that transmission had not been linked to any deficiencies in care and it was being supported by the TB centre at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine around manahment of the incident.    

George Findlay, chief medical officer for the trust, told The Argus newspaper: “TB is generally difficult to transmit and can lie dormant in a patient’s system for many years before becoming active.

“Therefore, it is not unusual to have a substantial gap between initial exposure, subsequent detection of TB in the patient and then the contact tracing work evidenced by this letter.”


Updated at 15.50pm to include comments from the trust.