New Diagnostic Tools Helps TB

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The World Health Organisation (WHO) has reported that tens of thousands of people suffering the multidrug-resistant strain of tuberculosis are now able to obtain treatment due to new diagnostic tools that are being used.

This report comes days before World TB Day on 24 March. The WHO states that a project which was started five years ago is making great strides in the diagnosis of MDR-TB patients who were previously missed in the system.

During 2012, approximately 500,000 people became ill with this strain of TB. However, only one in four of those people received a diagnosis and this is due to the fact that proper diagnostic services were inaccessible.

The WHO, along with partner agencies commenced a project in 27 middle and low-income countries in an attempt to reach those suffering with MDR-TB who appeared to be falling through the cracks in their country’s health system.

Mario Raviglione, the Director of WHO’s Global TB Programme, has stated that the EXPAND-TB project has seen progress in finding these patients who were previously missed out. Within the 27 countries, during 2012, in excess of 70,000 new cases of the disease were discovered. In sharp contrast, during 2008, which was one year before the project was started, the 27 targeted countries only reported approximately 10,000 cases of MDR-TB.

This indicated that by 2012, the number of cases notified by these countries increased three-fold. One of the best examples relates to India, which is the largest recipient of EXPAND-TB support. The country detected 16,000 MDR-TB people during 2012, compared to a figure of 4 to 5,000 previously.

The countries involved in this project, of which 12 are African, are located across the globe. These countries carry around 40% of the assessed global burden of MDR-TB.
The main implementing partner of this initiative is an organisation called FIND, with UNITAID providing around $87 million to aid in the support of the scheme.

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According to Catharina Boehme, the Chief Executive Officer of FIND, diagnostics has an influence on around 70% of all health care decisions. However, only about 3 to 5% of spending in the health care sector goes to this.

She stated that traditional TB diagnostic tests can take longer than two months to obtain results. However, with new technology this can be reduced to two hours.
TB is spread through the air and is a contagious disease. Regular TB patients can be cured by taking a six-month treatment course, however it takes around two years to treat those suffering with MDR-TB.

The WHO has stated that the complex routine of drugs required to effectively treat the disease often runs into tens of thousands of dollars in countries that can afford the treatment. However, negotiations that have been completed with pharmaceutical companies have allowed the cost of the drugs to be significantly lowered in developing countries.

Image credit: Myfuture

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