Objective. A tuberculin skin-test survey was conducted in eight provinces of Afghanistan to estimate the prevalence and annual risk of tuberculosis infection among the Afghan population.

Methods. A cluster survey in eight Afghan provinces, chosen based on population density and geographic distribution, was carried out between October and February 2006. Interviews were conducted and tuberculin skin tests were administered and read.

Findings. 11,413 individuals participated in the study. Using the international standard cut-off of 10 mm, tuberculosis prevalence and annual risk of infection in the population were 15% (CI: 14.4-15.7) and 0.80 (CI: 0.76-0.84), respectively. Tuberculosis prevalence was higher in rural than in urban areas. Other risk factors included age, prior tuberculosis treatment or contact, productive cough or cough >3 weeks, no prior bacille Calmette Guérin (BCG) vaccination and a cooking fire in the sleeping room.  

Conclusions. The survey documented a lower prevalence and risk of tuberculosis infection than the 1978 national survey and a substantially lower estimate of incidence of new smear-positive tuberculosis cases than World Health Organization estimates. However, other findings suggest that active tuberculosis may remain widespread and undiagnosed, and indicate a need for both additional research and continued investment in tuberculosis treatment and prevention, and in health infrastructure.