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Progress towards the World Health Organization’s End TB Strategy is monitored by assessing tuberculosis (TB) incidence, often derived from TB notification, assuming complete case detection and reporting. This assumption is unlikely to hold in many settings, including European Union (EU) countries.


We aimed to assess observed and estimated completeness of TB notification through inventory studies and capture–recapture (CRC) methodology in six EU countries: Croatia, Denmark, Finland, the Netherlands, Portugal Slovenia.


We performed record linkage, case ascertainment and CRC analyses of data collected retrospectively from at least three national TB-related registers in each country between 2014 and 2016.


Observed completeness of TB notification by inventory studies was 73.9% in Croatia, 98.7% in Denmark, 83.6% in Finland, 81.6% in the Netherlands, 85.8% in Portugal and 100% in Slovenia. Subsequent CRC analysis estimated completeness of TB notification to be 98.4% in Denmark, 76.5% in Finland and 77.0% in Portugal. In Croatia, CRC analyses produced implausible results while in the Netherlands and Slovenia, it was methodologically considered not meaningful.


Inventory studies and CRC methodology suggest a TB notification completeness between 73.9% and 100% in the six EU countries. Mandatory reporting by clinicians and laboratories, and cross-checking of registers, strongly contributes to accurate notification rates, but hospital episode registers likely contain a considerable proportion of false-positive TB records and are thus less useful. Further strengthening routine surveillance to count TB cases, i.e. incidence, accurately by employing record-linkage of high-quality TB registers should make CRC studies obsolete in EU countries.


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