An alliance of international and domestic health organizations has created the Zero TB Cities project in an effort to drastically reduce tuberculosis (TB) infections around the world. Chennai, India is one of the coalition’s first targets.
According to the World Health Organization, 2.6 million people in India are infected with TB, accounting for 23 percent of global TB cases.
Pamela Das, Executive Editor of The Lancet said in an Editorial, “The goal is to help communities move to zero deaths from tuberculosis in their own way, and create ‘islands of elimination,’ which will hopefully reverse the overall tuberculosis epidemic.”
The project will be using a comprehensive method at a community level to tackle the disease. The “island of elimination” strategy is a simple strategy that pushes for better use of current tools and methods for attacking TB.
Zero TB Cities relies on the collaboration between local governments, institutions and grassroots associations to provide life-changing treatment. The partnership of the Municipal Corporation of Chennai, Chennai-based REACH and the National Institute of Research in Tuberculosis (NIRT) will conduct the project.
Although TB is an airborne disease, Tom Nicholson, head of the project, said that it can be controlled and has been in the past.
According to Dr. Suvanand Sahu, Deputy Executive Director of the Stop TB Partnership in Geneva, the transmission of TB is much higher in cities because people live in close proximity to each another and infection spreads quickly.
In Chennai, the project will actively search for people infected with TB and treat them to interrupt transmission cycles and reduce mortality. The project will also provide preventative TB treatments for people in high-risk areas and routine monitoring for early and accurate diagnosis.
Nicholson, an associate in research at the Duke Center for International Development (DCID) in Durham, said he believes that any city can reach “pre-elimination phase”. This phase refers to a relatively TB free environment found in wealthy countries as a result of Zero TB Cities.
– Marie Helene Ngom