Association between ambient air pollution and elevated risk of tuberculosis development

Yi Jun Lin, Hsing Chieh Lin, Ying Fei Yang, Chi Yun Chen, Min Pei Ling, Szu Chieh Chen, Wei Yu Chen, Shu Han You, Tien Hsuan Lu, Chung Min Liao*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

20 Scopus citations


Background: Broad-scale evidence has shown the significant association between ambient air pollutants and the development of tuberculosis (TB). However, the impact of air quality on the risk of TB in Taiwan is still poorly understood. Objective: To develop a probabilistic integrated population-level risk assessment approach for evaluating the contribution of ambient air pollution exposure to the risk of TB development among different regions of Taiwan. Materials and methods: A Bayesian-based probabilistic risk assessment model was implemented to link exposure concentrations of various air pollutants quantified in a probabilistic manner with the population-based exposure-response models developed by using an epidemiological investigation. Results: The increment of the risk of TB occurred in a region with a higher level of air pollution, indicating a strong relationship between ambient air pollution exposures and TB incidences. Carbon monoxide (CO) exposure showed the highest population attributable fraction (PAF), followed by nitrogen oxides (NOX) and nitrogen dioxide (NO2) exposures. In a region with higher ambient air pollution, it is most likely (80% risk probability) that the contributions of CO exposure to development of TB were 1.6–12.2% (range of median PAFs), whereas NOX and NO2 exposures contributed 1.2–9.8% to developing TB. Conclusion: Our findings provide strong empirical support for the hypothesis and observations from the literature that poor air quality is highly likely to link aetiologically to the risk of TB. Therefore, substantial reductions in CO, NOX, and NO2 exposures are predicted to have health benefits to susceptible and latently infected individuals that provide complementary mitigation efforts in reducing the burden of TB. Considering that people continue to be exposed to both TB bacilli and ambient air pollutants, our approach can be applied for different countries/regions to identify which air pollutants contribute to a higher risk of TB in order to develop potential mitigation programs.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3835-3847
Number of pages13
JournalInfection and Drug Resistance
StatePublished - 2019


  • Ambient air pollution
  • Exposure-response function
  • Population attributable fraction
  • Probabilistic risk assessment
  • Tuberculosis


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