Tuberculosis in Southeast AsiaTuberculosis is a bacterial infection caused by Mycobacterium tuberculosis. This bacteria usually attacks the lungs, but TB can also affect any part of the body, including the kidneys, spine and brain. Tuberculosis is highly contagious and spreads through the air from person to person. It is most infectious when it is in a person’s lungs, not in their kidneys or other organs.

Southeast Asia’s Member States Goal to End TB by 2030

Worldwide, 10 million people contract TB annually, killing 1.6 million people. Tuberculosis in Southeast Asia accounts for 44 percent of cases and 50 percent of the deaths from this disease. This region only makes up a quarter of the world’s population.

In 2017, the WHO Southeast Asia Region’s Member States issued a call for action to accelerate the progress that is being made to exterminate tuberculosis around the globe. A year later in 2018, the same group released a Statement of Action to further increase these efforts.

To that end, domestic budgetary allocations have more than doubled. There has been a concerted effort in technology and medicines. The region has adopted a people-centered approach so that they can find more cases. For the first time, case finding has become a core focus, particularly in high-risk groups. Patient-centered policies are being implemented, including direct cash transfers and nutritional support for persons for tuberculosis. Governments are also including civil society organizations in decision making, and more people are joining the effort to combat TB as a result.

Further Efforts to Fight Tuberculosis in Southeast Asia

By 2020, at least 1.8 million tuberculosis-infected patients need to diagnosed and treated, 1.5 million of these should be children. Efforts are also being made to address the 500,000 people with drug-resistant TB. Overall, the plan is to ensure that 12 million people currently at risk receive preventative medicines and vaccines.

Adequate access to low-cost TB drugs via South-South cooperation is also an important policy objective. The goal is that more drugs will be produced with enhanced diagnostics so that more people can be reached.

These countries are working together to make great strides in ending tuberculosis in Southeast Asia. They are working with organizations, like WHO and USAID, to increase local advocacy and communications, to mobilize people to do their part. In Thailand, the Thailand TB Active Surveillance Network was established to strengthen the capacity to watch with outbreaks and cases throughout the region.

In addition, USAID has helped to strengthen regional-specific TB training modules, increasing infrastructure and training across the region so that more laboratories can be created and staffed.

Regional leaders have joined forces to combat tuberculosis in Southeast Asia, with the goal of ending preventable deaths. While there is still a long way to go, with the progress and action that the governments and their people are taking every day, the goal of ending tuberculosis in Southeast Asia by 2030 will be achieved.

– Michela Rahaim
Photo: Flickr

Tuberculosis in NigeriaTuberculosis is an infectious disease that attacks the lungs and destroys other organs in the body, causing coughing, weight loss, fever, night sweats and sometimes death. More than one-third of the world’s population is infected with bacteria that could cause tuberculosis, and between 5 and 10 percent of the people infected will become sick. Two million people die from tuberculosis every year.

Poverty and tuberculosis are connected, as many impoverished people live in unhygienic communities with little access to healthcare. Young children and people living with HIV are also at serious risk since tuberculosis is harder to diagnose in both groups. There are many people in danger from tuberculosis, particularly those living in developing countries where poverty and diseases are common. This article will discuss facts, causes and solutions to the problem of tuberculosis in Nigeria.

Tuberculosis in Nigeria

Nigeria is ranked seventh out of the 30 highest burden countries for tuberculosis and second in Africa. Around 470,000 people are diagnosed with tuberculosis in Nigeria every year, leading to more than 150,000 deaths from tuberculosis in 2017 alone.

One of the greatest risks to the Nigerian people is the co-infection of tuberculosis and HIV. It is 16- 27 times more likely that someone with HIV will develop tuberculosis in their lifetime than someone without HIV. In fact, 63,000 HIV positive people are diagnosed with tuberculosis every year in Nigeria and 39,000 HIV positive people die from tuberculosis every year in Nigeria. Nigeria has 3.2 million people currently living with HIV, which makes its population susceptible to tuberculosis.

Another reason that Nigeria has one of the highest levels of tuberculosis is the poverty rate. There are around 152 million people in Nigeria living below the poverty line. These people suffer from poor living conditions, where diseases can often roam free, and lack of healthcare and proper food or shelter. Tuberculosis can also carry a harmful stigma, so many people living in poor communities fail to seek treatment.

Bolatito Aiyenigba, deputy project director for malaria and tuberculosis on CCP’s USAID-funded Breakthrough ACTION, helped to lead a research team to discover the reasons that Nigeria has one of the highest rates of tuberculosis in the world. Aiyenigba said, “Stigma, discrimination and an overall lack of awareness of TB are providing to be major barriers to going to the facility for a TB test. We now have deeper insights into the ‘why’ behind this through patients’ stories.”

Misinformed beliefs cause people to refrain from getting help. For instance, many people in Nigeria believe that tuberculosis is caused by smoking, drinking or witchcraft, or even that it is hereditary, and then try to cure it by using burnt crabs, ashes or oil. Other people don’t believe that tuberculosis testing is free in public health facilities. Groups such as the Breakthrough ACTION project are working to raise awareness about tuberculosis, first by seeking out the problem and then providing a solution.

Solutions

What is happening to end tuberculosis in Nigeria? In the summer or 2018, minister of Health, Prof Isaac Adewale held a symposium focused on “raising future leaders to end TB in Nigeria.” Adewale reminded everyone that the Federal Ministry of Health established the National TB and Leprosy Control Program in 1989 and that since then, Nigeria has been aligned with all World Health Organization (WHO) recommendations.

WHO launched its End TB Strategy in 2014. This strategy aims to eradicate tuberculosis globally as part of the Sustainable Developmental Goals. By 2030, countries that are part of the plan will reduce tuberculosis cases by 80 percent, tuberculosis deaths by 90 percent, and completely eliminate catastrophic costs to families suffering from tuberculosis. Nigeria implemented the WHO’s End TB Strategy in 2016.

Most of all, the Nigerian government is fighting to raise awareness of tuberculosis. With more funding for tuberculosis activities, a guarantee that treatment will be available to the public, and support for people who are already on treatment, Nigeria could take huge steps forward to end tuberculosis. The wife of Nasarawa State governor, Dr. Mairo Tanko Al-Makura, said it all: “We ask for your cooperation in fighting this disease to a stop.”

– Natalie Dell
Photo: Flickr

UNAIDS
UNAIDS, established in 1996, is an organization dedicating to treating ailments such as AIDS and tuberculosis through the rights-based technique.

By approaching these issues having the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in mind, UNAIDS has been a pioneer in the remedying of such diseases, especially tuberculosis. In the article below, the way in which UNAIDS is working to end tuberculosis is presented.

Definition of Tuberculosis

Caused by the Mycobacterium tuberculosis (MTB) bacteria, Tuberculosis (TB) is contracted when one person inspires droplets released by another infected person. These droplets can be loosed through a laugh, cough, sneeze, chatter and other similar actions.

The bacteria primarily attacks the lungs and can be detected if one develops a harsh cough, becomes rather feeble, begins to spit up blood and/or sputum, and experiences chest aches, among other things.

Latent tuberculosis occurs when somebody carries the TB bacteria, but does not display any signs, nor is contagious. These hosts rarely ever fully develop TB, but it’s still crucial to receive treatment, just for safe measure. The effects of TB, if the disease flourishes, can be immensely hazardous, and potentially fatal.

Tuberculosis Consequences

According to the UNAIDS website, tuberculosis is especially dangerous since it is the leading cause of death among people living with HIV, causing more than one-third of all AIDS-related deaths in 2015. Almost 60 percent of the estimated global HIV-related TB cases are not diagnosed and not treated.

Basically, the tuberculosis epidemic is heavily integrated into their journey to better the tempest that is called the AIDS disease.

The organization has strongly rallied behind the 2016 United Nations Political Declaration on Ending AIDS. This declaration is staunch on curtailing the number of TB-HIV-tied fatalities to 75 percent by the end of 2020 rolls.

How UNAIDS is Working to End Tuberculosis?

At the 42nd Programme Coordination Board (PBC) meeting, UNAIDS precisely defined how they plan on cutting the deaths down to their target percentage. In the report “Ending Tuberculosis and AIDS: A Joint Response in the Era of Sustainable Development Goals,” more specifically, in a table provided by World Health Organization (WHO), three steps in reducing tuberculosis deaths are defined.

These steps are: establish and strengthen the mechanism for delivering integrated TB and HIV services, reduce the burden of TB in people living with HIV and reduce the burden of HIV in people with presumptive and diagnosed TB.

Step one can be achieved by reducing the probability of HIV occurring in TB-infected people and vice- versa. Surveilling this issue closely can determine the mortality rate in such cases.

Step two can be reached by means of reinforcing observations and treatments. Making these treatments affordable is the key in reducing the rate of tuberculosis occurring in those infected with HIV by 2020.

Finally, the methodology of step three involves strong encouragement of getting tested and issuing prevention techniques to patients either already diagnosed or suspected of carrying the disease.

The report also suggests that people must crush the stigma and cruel judgment that shrouds those living with tuberculosis, HIV, or both. In the report, it was clearly stated that the unchallenged presence of stigma reduces the efficiency of TB and HIV programmes.

UNAIDS also chairs what is known as the H6 Partnership. This group consists of UNFPA, UNICEF, U.N. Women, WHO, UNAIDS, and the World Bank Group. Part and parcel to the Every Woman Every Child act, the partners also work to end tuberculosis in order to sustain maternal and child health.

UNAIDS is an organization that has a clear goal of eradicating serious world illnesses such as tuberculosis and AIDS. The UNAIDS is working to end tuberculosis through three clearly defined steps. The reduction of tuberculosis would help the people infected by AIDS as well, and the work of the organization must be universally recognized and helped by the governments from all over the world.

– Jordan de la Fuente

Photo: Flickr

Treating Tuberculosis in Bangladesh
Every hour, nine people die from tuberculosis in Bangladesh. High rates of poverty, overcrowding and a lack of information about the disease combine to make treating tuberculosis in Bangladesh particularly difficult.

As of 2017, 244,201 Bangladeshis were suffering from tuberculosis. Nearly 6,000 of these patients were infected with drug-resistant tuberculosis.

The Problem of Drug-resistant Tuberculosis

Improper tuberculosis treatment has led to the occurrence of drug-resistant tuberculosis. When physicians prescribe the wrong drug or dose, or when patients do not finish their entire course of treatment, the tuberculosis bacteria evolve to become resistant to that treatment. Multidrug-resistant tuberculosis (MDR-TB) poses a unique challenge in Bangladesh.

While regular tuberculosis is entirely curable with proper treatment, the cure rate for MDR-TB is only 50 percent. Treatment for regular tuberculosis takes as little as six months, while the treatment for MDR-TB takes up to two years. The extra treatment time hits poor families the hardest since more time in the hospital bed means less time at work. Tuberculosis, especially MDR-TB, can deepen the cycle of poverty.

Bangladesh Innovates Treatment Plans

Bangladesh doctors have pioneered a new treatment course that uses a combination of drugs at different doses and they have been able to reduce the MDR-TB treatment time to nine months. This new treatment lowers the cost of treatment from $4,000 down to below $1,000. Since health care resources are scarce, this improvement means that more lives can be saved. New community-based approaches have also been successful in treating tuberculosis in Bangladesh.

Community-based Approach

The new community-based approach has also been successful in treating tuberculosis in the country. In Bangladesh, treatment of MDR-TB was generally confined to a few national hospitals. But in 2012, the Ministry of Health, with support from the National Tuberculosis Program, launched a new approach: community-based programmatic management of drug-resistant tuberculosis (CPMDT). Although it has a long name, this approach has a very simple goal: to shift the focus of treatment away from national hospitals and toward a decentralized, community-based approach. Treatment is now supervised by Upazila-level health centers. An Upazila is a type of administrative region or sub-district.

Instead of staying in a hospital for the entire course of treatment, patients will only spend brief stints there before moving either home or to outpatient Upazila health centers.

DOT Providers Play a Crucial Role

Directly-observed therapy (DOT) means that a health care worker regularly observes the tuberculosis patient, prescribes the proper dosage and actually watches the patient take the proper dose. In the CPMDT intervention, DOT providers visit patients daily, taking the opportunity to screen family members for tuberculosis as well.

The new model also places more emphasis on psychosocial support. DOT providers counsel the patients, focusing on providing nutritional support and even vocational training. The Bangladeshi government even provides patients with a monthly nutrition stipend.

Overall, the intervention has increased the proportion of MDR-TB patients enrolled in treatment, reduced treatment delay and improved outcomes. Following this intervention in Bangladesh, researchers measured a 76 percent cure rate which is much higher than the global average of 56 percent.

Thanks to a dedicated government and devoted community health care workers, treating tuberculosis in Bangladesh has become a more manageable feat. The success of these decentralizing government interventions has promising implications and other governments can learn a lot from Bangladesh to improve their own health care outcomes.

– Ivana Bozic
Photo: Flickr

effects of poverty

Poverty stretches across the globe affecting almost half of the world’s population. Its effects reach deeper. Uniquely connected to different causes, the effects of poverty are revolving—one result leads to another source leads to another consequence. To fully understand the effects of poverty, the causes have to be rooted out to develop strategies to end hunger and starvation for good. Let’s discuss some of the top effects of poverty.

Poor Health

Globally, millions suffer from poverty-related health conditions as infectious diseases ravage the lives of an estimated 14 million people a year and are of the top effects of poverty. These diseases are contracted through sources like contaminated water, the absence of water and sanitation, and lack of access to proper healthcare. The list is broad and long. Here are the top diseases commonly linked to poverty.

  • Malaria: Malaria is urbanely referred to as the poor man’s disease, as more than a million people living in poverty die from it each year. Caused by a parasite, malaria is contracted through mosquito bites. Most prevalent in sub-Saharan Africa, malaria affects the lives of many in 97 countries worldwide.
  • Tuberculosis: Often referred to as TB, tuberculosis is a bacteria-borne disease. The bacterium, Mycobacterium tuberculosis, targets the lungs. It also affects the kidneys, brain, and spine. When discussing the effects of TB worldwide, it must be broken down by burden—high burden TB and low burden TB—all of which has to do with the number of cases that impact a country. High burden TB affects more than 22 countries, as low burden TB accounts for 10 cases per 100,000 people in a geographical location.
  • HIV/AIDS: HIV stands for human immunodeficiency virus. This infection attacks the immune system and is contracted by contact with certain fluids in the body. If HIV is left untreated, certain infections and diseases can take over the body and cause a person to develop AIDS (Acquired Immune Deficiency syndrome). Thirty-six million people in the world have HIV/AIDS. In countries like Zambia and Zimbabwe, one in five adults live with HIV or AIDS.

Continuing the fight against poverty through economic expansion will help eliminate poverty-related illnesses and raise the value of health in poor communities.

Crime

There’s an old adage that says, “If a man don’t work, he don’t eat.” That’s not the case for a large number people living in poverty. Lack of economic opportunity leads to impoverishment which then leads to crime.

Global unemployment is at a high point. One hundred ninety-two million people around the world are jobless. In some parts of the world, mainly poor parts, unemployment standings will drive this number higher. In a study done on youth in the Caribbean, it was determined that joblessness fueled criminal activity in those aged 15 through 24.

Because of the struggles in the Caribbean job market, the murder rates are higher there than in any other region in the world. The crime rate affects 6.8 percent of the Caribbean population against the world average of 4.5 percent, calculating the global rate per 100,000 people.

People who live below the poverty line and don’t have access to sufficient economic opportunity, live by any dangerous means necessary.

Lack of Education

There is a direct correlation between low academic performance and poverty. Children who are exposed to extreme levels of poverty have difficulty with cognitive development, speech, and managing stress, which leads to adverse behavior.

In the country of Niger—the most illiterate nation in the world—only 15 percent of adults have the ability to read and write. Eritrea follows on the heels of Niger: with a population of 6 million, the average person only achieves four years of school.

In these poor locations, young adults and children have to leave school to work to help provide additional income for their families. Other children don’t have access to education due to decent schools being too far for them to travel to. On the other hand, schools nearby don’t have enough materials and resources to properly educate children. The conditions of the schools are just as poor as the children’s living conditions.

Where there’s poverty, there’s lack of education, joblessness, and poor health. The key to destroying the top effects of poverty is to attack the causes. More funding is needed for programs such as Child Fund International—a program that brings resources to children in poor communities. The International Economic Development Council supports economic developers by helping them create, retain, and expand jobs in their communities. And then there are the international efforts of the World Health Organization that fights to bring vaccinations and health-related resources to impoverished communities suffering from the infectious diseases of poverty. With these efforts along with other strategies, we can continue making strides to end the effects of poverty. 

– Naomi C. Kellogg 

Photo: Flickr

World TB DayEvery year on March 24, World Tuberculosis (TB) Day is observed all around the world. World TB Day is an official global health campaign marked by the World Health Organization (WHO). The day is meant to bring awareness and response to Tuberculosis around the world.

The event commemorates the date that Dr. Robert Koch discovered Mycobacterium Tuberculosis in 1882. This is the bacteria that causes Tuberculosis. Thanks to modern medicine, Tuberculosis is now treatable and even curable, though it remains widespread through most of the world.

History of World TB Day

In 1982, the International Union Against Tuberculosis and Lung Disease (IUATLD) proposed that March 24 should be World TB Day. This was in honor of the hundredth anniversary of Dr. Koch’s discovery. However, World TB Day was not officially recognized by the World Health Organization and United Nations until 1995.

Meetings, conferences and programs are being conducted around the world in support of the day. The goal of World TB Day is to not only spread awareness about what the disease does but also about how to prevent, treat and cure Tuberculosis. Many global health organizations have supported and promoted World TB Day since its installment, including the World Health Organization, the National Association of Country and City Health Officials and the International Committee of the Red Cross.

The Goals of 2018

On March 24, 2018, the world observed its twenty-fourth World TB Day. The day outlined the international medical goals for this year and beyond. This year’s theme was, “Wanted: Leaders For a TB-Free World.” The World Health Organization is planning to completely eradicate Tuberculosis all over the world. However, that means putting a heavier stance on treatment and prevention methods, both of which will be a heavy influence in this year’s campaign.

The goal is to mobilize political and social movements about Tuberculosis and make further commitments toward eliminating the disease. A full set of campaign material and content about the 2018 day became available March 1 on the website for the Stop TB Partnership.

The Global Goal

As of 2018, Tuberculosis is still the world’s leading infectious killer. It is the cause of over one million deaths worldwide every year. The Stop TB Partnership has three main goals associated with World TB Day:

  1. By 2020, at least 90 percent of the people afflicted with Tuberculosis will have access to proper treatments and therapies.
  2. By 2030, end the current Tuberculosis epidemic.
  3. By 2035, completely eradicate the disease on a global level.

The partnership hopes to create a healthy future for the next and continued generations. By raising awareness about Tuberculosis, many global health organizations can increase funding for proper medical treatments in impoverished areas. Leaders and medical professionals still have a long way to go before people will be able to live in a completely Tuberculosis free world.

As medical advancements are escalated, diseases also escalate. Tuberculosis has mutated into many multi-drug-resistant strains, making prevention harder. In impoverished countries, where they have little to no advanced medicine, prevention and treatment are nearly impossible.

However, advancements toward the Stop TB Partnership’s goals have already started and will continue. The awareness and knowledge spread by World TB Day can slowly help move the world toward a disease-free future.

– Courtney Wallace

Photo: Flickr

Resolution Introduced to Senate to Support World Tuberculosis Day
On March 19th, Senator Sherrod Brown of Ohio introduced S.Res. 437 to the Senate, which is a resolution that seeks to affirm the U.S. fight against tuberculosis and guarantee support of World Tuberculosis Day, while also trying to increase general awareness of the disease.

Extent of Tuberculosis

The resolution shares several alarming statistics about tuberculosis from 2016, and the extent to which the disease affected people that year:

  • The World Health Organization (WHO) assessed that 10.4 million became infected with tuberculosis.
  • Around 1.7 million people lost their lives that year due to the illness.
  • Around the world, one million children became infected with the disease, and 250,000 lost their lives because of it.
  • Among HIV-negative people, tuberculosis was believed to cause 80 percent of deaths in both Africa and South Asia, and 33 percent of deaths occurred in India.
  • Currently, the resolution states that a quarter of the world’s entire population is infected with tuberculosis.

In an article about World Tuberculosis Day 2018, WHO stated that tuberculosis is the most prevalent in people who live in poverty, marginalized communities and otherwise vulnerable groups.

Goals for World Tuberculosis Day

The introduction of this resolution to the Senate indicates that the U.S. will continue its efforts to fight against the disease. The resolution has three specific aims:

  • To support World Tuberculosis Day and continue to raise awareness about the disease.
  • To applaud the efforts of various organizations to fight against tuberculosis; for instance, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the World Health Organization.
  • A general goal to increase the role of the U.S. as a leader in the fight against the disease, and to continue to improve the overall global response to this issue.

The U.S. has already made an important impact in fighting tuberculosis: “USAID remains committed to saving millions of lives by ending the tuberculosis epidemic by 2030,” wrote USAID Administrator Mark Green in a statement released on World Tuberculosis Day.

United State’s Role in Fighting the Disease

Green also pointed out in his statement that the effects of tuberculosis are not just physical. It is also harmful in terms of a country’s economy, because those affected by the disease can lose three to four months of work, and subsequently over one-fourth of their income while fighting the disease.

The Senate resolution notes that USAID currently assists 23 countries with high rates of tuberculosis by providing support in the form of financial and technical aid. This aid is used to pursue the creation of new tools to both detect and treat the disease; it is also applied towards research for vaccines.

A Goal of Eradication

Since 2000, the assistance and funding from USAID and the U.S. more broadly has resulted in a decrease in the incidence of tuberculosis by one-fifth. However, despite the progress being made to eliminate the disease, the high rates of infection and death among people living in poverty makes tuberculosis the top infectious-disease that leads to death around the world.

This resolution is an important declaration that the U.S. will continue to raise awareness of tuberculosis, and pursue the ultimate goal of permanently eradicating the disease.

– Jennifer Jones

Photo: Flickr

New Medicine Can Solve the Tuberculosis Crisis in Mexico
Tuberculosis (TB) is an infectious bacterial disease that most commonly affects the lungs. It transfers from person to person by cough-induced airborne droplets. For healthy people, the infection is typically fought off by the body’s immune system and symptoms are rare. However, when symptoms are active, a person with TB experiences coughing, sometimes with mucous or blood, chest pains, weakness, weight loss and fevers.

Thankfully, TB is a treatable disease if the patient has access to the requisite six-month course of antibiotics. Patients who cannot complete the full treatment cycle have not fully eliminated the bacteria from their body. Often times, patients in poorer nations simply do not have access to extensive treatment, or cannot afford it, and can become sick again with a more virulent, resistant form of the disease that is less responsive to treatments – also known as drug-resistant tuberculosis (DR-TB). Currently, about one third of the world’s population is infected with a latent form of TB. Each year, nearly two million die as a result of one of the world’s deadliest diseases.

In the last few years, new drugs have been developed to aid in the fight against the strains of DR-TB. Between 2012 and 2014, bedaquiline and delamanid were the first drugs developed to treat TB in over 50 years. They represent a lifeline for the people who are suffering from the most resistant forms of TB. However, people around the world are not receiving access to the drugs. The international medical humanitarian organization Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) is aiming to change that, starting in Guadalajara, Mexico, where the global TB community is meeting for the 48th Union World Conference on Lung Health later this year. Some physicians are hopeful that the new medicine can solve the tuberculosis crisis in Mexico.

Prior to 2010, Mexico had been experiencing a consistent decline in the presence of the disease. Between 1990 and 2010, the studies with the National Institutes of Health estimate that incidence were decreasing annually by about two percent. However, thousands are still diagnosed in Mexico every year. The spread of the disease does not end at its borders, either. The U.S. reports that over 20 percent of its foreign-born TB cases are Mexican. Obviously, the presence of TB continues to be a public concern for Mexico and its neighboring countries.

The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that globally, nearly 30 percent of patients with DR-TB could benefit from the introduction of the new drugs into the medical regimen. Yet, as of July 2017, less than 11,000 people are taking the new medications. According to Doctors Without Borders, the TB treatment community is largely concerned with the low uptake of the new drugs that have a high potential to aid those with the lowest chances of success under the current standard. Prior to the new drug developments, DR-TB patients are prescribed to take over 15,000 pills over the course of two years. Dr. Isaac Chikwanha, HIV and TB Medical Advisor at MSF’s Access Campaign says, “Today, it’s unacceptable to continue treating [patients] with the same old regimen of medicines and not providing better treatment, knowing very well that we could be giving people a much better chance to stay alive by using these newer drugs.”

Fortunately, despite the conservative physicians resistance, the new drugs are being advanced and have since been distributed in over 14 countries. Advocates and campaigns continue to place the spotlight on better TB treatment options being available, but underutilized. Poor nations in particular need to focus on acquiring these new drugs, as the sick and malnourished are often even more susceptible to TB than others.

While the Center for Disease Control has identified a TB epidemic throughout the country, new medicine can help solve the TB crisis in Mexico with the implementation of new treatment regimes. Local communities, in conjunction with research and medical services, must cooperate to continue advancing medical treatments. Only then can the global community finally fight back against TB.

Taylor Elkins

Photo: Flickr

Tuberculosis InfectionEvery year, 30,000 individuals in Papua New Guinea are newly infected with tuberculosis. Tuberculosis is an airborne infection that causes the bacteria mycobacterium tuberculosis to develop into a disease that destroys organ tissue most commonly in the lungs. It can be fatal if left untreated. From those 30,000, one out of four are diagnosed; one out of five receive treatment; and less than half get successfully treated. If left untreated, one person can infect 10 to 15 people every year.

Increasing incidences due to minimal health care, poor housing and nutrition have contributed to poverty, overcrowding and people failing to complete their treatment. In fact only 50 percent of individuals have access to adequate healthcare. Children face the greatest risk of contracting disabling forms of tuberculosis. Unfortunately, 10 percent of children die from tuberculosis.

Papua New Guinea’s island of Daru has the highest rate of tuberculosis infection in the world. Out of 150,000 people on the island, 160 get infected with drug-resistant tuberculosis as of January 2016. The rise of two aggressive strains of tuberculosis are a result of recent developments of antibiotic resistance.

This resistance stems from multidrug resistant and extensively drug resistant tuberculosis. To treat tuberculosis infection, a daily regimen of injections, oral medication and supervised medical care of anywhere between six to 24 months is recommended.

With funding from the United States Agency for International Development and the National Department of Health, FHI360 is hosting a series training courses for doctors to introduce Bedaquiline. Janssen Pharmaceuticals developed Bedaquiline, the first new class of antibiotics approved by the United States Food and Drug Association in more than 40 years.

By utilizing pharmacovigilance—the science of early detection and adverse effects—Bedaquiline is slowly being introduced to practitioners and their patients. In fact, 85 courses of Bedaquiline have already been distributed to Daru hospital.

Tiffany Santos
Photo: Flickr


Ghana plans to end tuberculosis (TB) and other lung related diseases by 2030 through the aid of diagnostic technology GeneXpert, according to Ghanaian doctor Frank Bonsu. He spoke at a press conference before the opening of the 20th Conference of the Union Africa Region on Lung Health. The four-day long conference, held approximately every two years, brings together more than 800 international and African delegates to discuss and plan tactics for eliminating TB and other lung diseases from the African continent.

Bonsu is the chairman of the conference as well as the program manager of Ghana’s National TB Control Programme. He said that although Ghana has made strides in fighting TB, there are still many cases that go undetected. Ideally, 44,000 cases of TB should be detected each year, but currently, only 15,000 are diagnosed. Bonsu blames the country’s lack of modern diagnostic equipment, its low number of microbiologists, the population’s poor awareness and the stigma of the disease that keeps people from seeking medical aid.

A combination of Ghana using GeneXpert and a reduction of the negative stigma against TB, Bonsu believes, is needed for an effective eradication. The National TB Control Programme also changed its emphasis from treating those who seek medical attention at facilities to its current outreach strategy in risk communities. The program hopes going out and offering aid will encourage early diagnosis, increase treatment and decrease stigma.

GeneXpert is a molecular test that can detect even the smallest amount of TB bacteria. It can also test for resistance to the common TB antibiotic Rifampicin. The main difference between GeneXpert and the other methods of TB detection, such as sputum microscopy, is its reliability and speed. GeneXpert can have results in less than two hours as opposed to weeks.

GeneXpert can only be used for diagnostic purposes and cannot be used to properly monitor treatment. It also does not eliminate the need for conventional microscopy culture and drug sensitivity testing, according to the World Health Organization, as these tactics are still needed to monitor treatment progress and detect other types of drug resistance. Yet GeneXpert is a major milestone in TB diagnostic technology.

With Ghana using GeneXpert, many more cases of TB can be caught early and treated more effectively. Ghana hopes that with the introduction of this new technology by the end of this year, along with outreach programs and a decrease in negative stigma, the country will be free of TB in 2030.

Hannah Kaiser

Photo: Flickr