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The Importance of Detecting TB Early

Miriam Schneidman's picture

As we enter the second year of the “Stop TB in my lifetime” campaign, it is time to take stock of where we are and look at the key priorities for attaining this worthy goal.  Beyond the banners urging the world to stop this curable disease are the faces of those afflicted by tuberculosis or whose lives were cut prematurely short. These faces remain etched in my memory and reinvigorate my drive to stop TB.

Their stories are strikingly similar. By the time they arrive at health facilities, many patients have persistent coughs, suffer from severe anemia, and are unable to work or go to school.  They often seek care at an advanced stage of the disease which increases the risk of infecting others, and makes treatment more complicated and costly. They lack access to the latest technologies for accurately diagnosing HIV-related TB or multi-drug resistant strains and may go undiagnosed, continuing to transmit the disease.

On this World TB Day we need to recognize Africa’s achievements.  The continent is on track to attain the MDG target of reducing new TB cases even though more needs to be done to reduce deaths from TB. Progress on TB/HIV integrated care has been remarkable in some countries, like Kenya and Rwanda, with the systematic testing of TB patients for HIV (2012 Global Tuberculosis Control Report, WHO, 2012.).  Research on point-of-care testing, effective vaccines, and new diagnostics is well underway.  Still, more needs to be done to work towards a world free of TB.

Early and accurate diagnosis is a critical priority for containing the spread of TB.  Under the World Bank-funded East Africa Public Health Laboratory Networking Project, the East African Community member states (Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania, Uganda and Burundi) are working together to strengthen laboratory capacity and improve access to the latest molecular diagnostic technologies.  The roll-out of the new GeneXpert machine in Kenya is bringing critical diagnostic services to underserved groups in remote cross border areas (Malindi, Wajir, Busia), revolutionizing TB care as patients receive accurate lab results within hours and can be placed on an appropriate drug regimen, saving households and health systems time and money.  The upgraded public health laboratories will serve other patients as well as public health officials requiring timely information about new pathogens, illustrating how the project is tackling both a key dimension of communicable disease control and a neglected aspect of health systems.

This short film set in Kenya captures the essence of what the project is trying to accomplish.

Comments

Dear All, As we celebrate World TB day today, March 24th 2013 there is much to be aware about as alot of gains and achievements in the fight against tuberculosis but this has to be maintained by countries so that we are not taken aback from where we came from. The World Bank's efforts for this biggest killer of HIV/AIDS patient is commendable especially looking at what the East Africa Public Health Laboratory Networking project (EAPHLN) has been doing so far. One of the WHO key pillars in TB control and this was revised recently is increasing uptake of new rapid diagnostics and associated laboratory strengthening for TB and drug resistance TB and new molecular technologies like GeneXpert play a bigger role as more diagnostic tools enter the market and this will assist in having quick diagnosis thereby bringing the burden down especially in the high burden countries like Kenya. the WHO diagnostics team has been pro active in ensuring new and faster methods of diagnosing all kinds of TB are being introduced and more research funds need to be directed towards this. The laboratory network being supported by the Bank through the EAPHLN has invested into some of these areas and quickly accelerated access and provision to some of these vital laboratory tests. MDR-TB is still an issue for TB control and the Director General of WHO - Dr. Margaret Chan says it all " We are treading water at a time when we desperately need to scale up our response to MDR-TB". Finally the advance of the laboratories is key in TB control and use of advocacy tools like newsletters and bulletins tell the story in a different way to a wider audience. The project produces quarterly bulletins and information on the activities can viewed online ( link - www.eaphln-ecsahc.org/kenya). The theme for World TB day - Stop TB in my life time is perfect as we approach the deadline for the 2015 target for MDG's in TB control. Miriam's blog captures the spirit of this journey and the video showcases some of this early achievements within Kenya and the greater East Africa under the innovative program!!

Submitted by Joyce Bett on
Fantastic Work. Happy to see that his is helping helping our people in the entire East Africa

Submitted by Asfawesen on
Dears Appreciations for the collaborative efforts you are doing to improve TB diagnosis and monitoring in the East African Countries. I would be glad to know if there is a possibility for Ethiopia to be member of this project. regards Asfawesen GebreYohannes, MD Director of Clinical Services Private Health Sector Program for Ethiopia

Submitted by Meera Shekar on
Excellent blog that highlights the importance of appropriate diagnostics capacities in countries to enable them to take early action. These capacities in the East African region will hopefully also enable the region to be better prepared to respond to any future threats, such as avian flu, if and when they emerge in the region.

Submitted by Alaine Umubyeyi... on
Woderful to see how faster the EAPHLN Project implementation in the EAC region. TB is curable disease; Early detection and Treatment is one way to Eliminate the disease in the communities. Let's us put our effort through the EAC / World Bank project and STOP TB in our communities!

Having read this I thought it was very informative.
I appreciate you spending some time and effort to put this article together.
I once again find myself personally spending
a significant amount of time both reading and commenting.

But so what, it was still worthwhile!

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