World Tuberculosis Day focuses on multi-drug resistant TB

rapid test for TB

rapid test for TB

World Tuberculosis is observed each year on 24 March to raise awareness about the disease that can be successfully treated if diagnosed on time.

The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that there are 440,000 cases of TB each year. Of particular concern is a strain of TB which is resistant to the usual medication in some African countries which don’t have the equipment and trained personnel to diagnose it.

To find out more about the state of tuberculosis, Gerry Adams spoke to WHO’s Dr. Paul Nunn based in Geneva.

Duration: 2’32″

NUNN: The state is not too bad in the sense that in 2004 the rate at which people were catching tuberculosis flattened out as a result of the efforts, particularly in the previous decade. But still, because the world’s population is increasing, the total number of cases of tuberculosis continues to rise. To offset that, however, the mortality rate is falling across the globe and the Millennium Development Goal for tuberculosis will be met globally although not all of them will be met in Sub-Saharan Africa.

ADAMS: World Tuberculosis Day is 24 March and a new report launched talks about multi-drug resistant tuberculosis. Can you tell me something about the new report?

NUNN: Yes. We are estimating at the moment that there are about 440,000 cases a year. Of these, about 280,000 are actually notified as cases of tuberculosis but the majority of them are not being tested for multi-drug resistance and only 30,400 approximately are being treated or were treated in 2009 for MDR TB.

ADAMS: Now, we also have Africa. I imagine in the DR Congo statistics are not that great in diagnosing MDR.

NUNN: The biggest problem there is that they have totally insufficient number of laboratories capable of doing the tests at the moment. I say at the moment because new tests are being introduced now which are DNA-based. But yes, I mean they only offer 2,200 cases, we estimate they had last year. They only notified 91.

ADAMS: Why is it that the percentage of cases diagnosed is so small relative to the number of cases that exist?

NUNN: Because health workers don’t think of diagnosis and even if they think of diagnosis they don’t have the laboratories to confirm the sensitivity. And that’s another reason why these DNA-based tests offer such good promise because you don’t need the complicated equipment or the training. It just takes a couple of hours instead of perhaps three months with conventional tests.

MBATHA: I would like to ask about one more African country, South Africa.

NUNN: South Africa is interesting because it’s one of the countries where they are probably notifying most of the cases. So, 9,600 were estimated and 9,000 were notified last year of which 4, 143 started on treatment. So they are doing rather better than most countries.

PRESENTER: That was Dr. Paul Nunn of the World Health Organization speaking to Gerry Adams.

Filed under Today's Features.
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