We should step up efforts to end the global TB epidemic

23Mar 2018
The Guardian
We should step up efforts to end the global TB epidemic

EACH year we commemorate World TB Day on March 24 to raise public awareness about the devastating health, social and economic consequences of tuberculosis (TB) and to step up efforts to end the global TB epidemic.

The date marks the day in 1882 when Dr. Robert Koch announced that he had discovered the bacterium that causes TB, which opened the way towards diagnosing and curing this disease.

Despite significant progress over the last decades, TB continues to be the top infectious killer worldwide, claiming over 4 500 lives a day. The emergence of multidrug-resistant TB (MDR-TB) poses a major health security threat and could risk gains made in the fight against TB.

The theme of World TB Day 2018 - “Wanted: Leaders for a TB-free world”- focuses on building commitment to end TB, not only at the political level with heads of state and ministers of health, but at all levels from mayors, RCs, parliamentarians and community leaders, to people affected with TB, civil society advocates, health workers, doctors or nurses, NGOs and other partners. All can be leaders of efforts to end TB in their own work or terrain.

This is a critical theme, given the political importance of the upcoming UN General Assembly high-level meeting on TB this year, which will bring together heads of state in New York. It follows on from a very successful Ministerial Conference on Ending TB in Moscow on 16-17 November, 2017 which resulted in high-level commitments from ministers and other leaders from 120 countries to accelerate progress to end TB.

World TB Day provides the opportunity to shine the spotlight on the disease and mobilise political and social commitment for accelerate progress to end TB. Factors such as malnutrition, poor housing and sanitation, compounded by other risk factors such as tobacco and alcohol use and diabetes, affect vulnerability to TB and access to care. Furthermore, this access is often hindered by catastrophic costs associated with illness, seeking and staying in care, and lack of social protection, resulting in a vicious cycle of poverty and ill-health. The transmission of multidrug-resistant TB (MDR-TB) adds great urgency to these concerns.

According to reports scientists in Tanzania envisage studying the new version of Tuberculosis (TB) diagnosis machine to establish the possibility of using it at primary health care facilities.

Should the study succeed, the experts say, the machine will boost the country's efforts to combat the disease through increased detection rate and reducing waiting time for diagnosis results.

The current TB diagnosis machine in the country can be used only up to the district-level health facilities because it has specifications to observe in its operation.

According to the institute there is a new version of GeneXpert known as GeneXpert Omni, which has already been developed.

TB test which is molecular based can make a patient get the results within two hours and immediately start treatment, reducing infection rate.

IHI scientists are conducting another study to come up with a combination of TB drugs that will be administered in a shorter period. Currently TB medication lasts up to six months, resulting into some patients dropping out of treatment due to the medication's long duration.

Tanzania is among hardest hit countries, with TB prevalence estimated at 295 cases per 100,000 people. Between 60,000 and 65,000 patients are reported in the country, annually.