Testing for tuberculosis (TB) varies according to the stage of infection and disease and what is the best match for an individual’s circumstances.
The biggest challenge in testing for TB in Australia is remembering to consider the possibility of TB infection.
How to test for tuberculosis
Testing for infection usually involves a blood or skin test. These test types look for evidence of exposure to TB bacteria (Mycobacterium tuberculosis).
The results of the tests are interpreted by experts either in the laboratory or the community depending on the type of test. These testing may indicate that additional tests are useful in contributing to a clear diagnosis of TB disease and might include chest x-ray and sputum testing.
If TB infection and disease are found, the laboratory can identify whether the TB bacteria are resistant to any of the medications used to treat TB. This information helps in making the best treatment decisions.
If you need a test for work or study
Care-providing organisations such as hospitals, residential care facilities and childcare providers will have policies and practices to protect staff and service users in their communities from infection of any kind.
These policies and practices should be viewed for the specific requirements of a given setting.
Preventing tuberculosis infection and disease among healthcare workers offers a good guide to reducing the risk of TB disease.
Where to get a test for work or study in a healthcare setting
The VTP does not provide pre-employment or educational placement testing.
Pre-employment testing should be arranged(in addition to other tests) with the employer, in the case of hospitals, or commercial pathology providers through your doctor.
Your education provider may be able to provide guidance if you are asked to test before starting an educational placement.
Types of tests for work or study in a healthcare setting
There are two types of tests for TB infection commonly in use globally:
- Interferon-gamma release assay (IGRA) – IGRA tests, such as the commercially available Quantiferon Gold, are recommended when testing for TB infection in the context of pre-employment or educational placement within the Victorian community
- Tuberculin skin test (TST) – TSTs have not been widely available in Victoria for some years
If you need a test for immigration or a visa
The VTP provides a public health response to TB. Immigration health examinations for Australian visa applicants are provided by Bupa Medical Visa Services.
As a result of your visa medical, you may be requested to see a specialist doctor. If this is about TB, you will be referred for migrant screening.
Migrant Screening Clinic
In Victoria, the Department of Health Services has contracted the screening of all migrants on health undertakings and onshore visa applicants with abnormal chest x-rays to Western Health's Migrant Screening Clinic in the Department of Respiratory and Sleep Disorders.
Bupa Visa Medical Services or the Migrant Screening Clinic may refer you to other specialist health services closer to where you live if further assessment is warranted or for treatment as appropriate.
Minimum health requirements for visa applicants
Most visa applicants are required to meet minimum health standards before a visa will be granted. Health requirements include actions to prevent the transmission of TB, including screening. Visit the Department of Home Affairs Health website for more information.
Your visa application is managed by Home Affairs Australia. If you are confident that they have all the requested documentation, contact your Department of Home Affairs case officer for further information. You can also check for updates on your ImmiAccount.
Active tuberculosis (TB) is a notifiable disease in Victoria.
All cases must be reported to the Department of Health by the patient’s treating doctor or the testing laboratory within 5 days of diagnosis.