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In 2015, there was an increase in the number of asylum seekers arriving in Europe. Like in other countries, deciding screening priorities for tuberculosis (TB) and meticillin-resistant (MRSA) was a challenge. At least five of 428 municipalities chose to screen asylum seekers for MRSA before TB; the Norwegian Institute for Public Health advised against this.


To evaluate the MRSA/TB screening results from 2014 to 2016 and create a generalised framework for screening prioritisation in Norway through simulation modelling.


This is a register-based cohort study of asylum seekers using data from the Norwegian Surveillance System for Communicable Diseases from 2014 to 2016. We used survey data from municipalities that screened all asylum seekers for MRSA and denominator data from the Directorate of Immigration. A comparative risk assessment model was built to investigate the outcomes of prioritising between TB and MRSA in screening regimes.


Of 46,090 asylum seekers, 137 (0.30%) were diagnosed with active TB (notification rate: 300/100,000 person-years). In the municipalities that screened all asylum seekers for MRSA, 13 of 1,768 (0.74%) were found to be infected with MRSA. The model estimated that screening for MRSA would prevent eight MRSA infections while prioritising TB screening would prevent 24 cases of active TB and one death.


Our findings support the decision to advise against screening for MRSA before TB among newly arrived asylum seekers. The model was an effective tool for comparing screening priorities and can be applied to other scenarios in other countries.


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