THROUGH an innovative international project championed by the World Health Organisation (WHO), Nigeria and 26 others are
making further progress in diagnosing Multi-Drug-Resistant Tuberculosis (MDR-TB), raising hope of appropriate care and cure for sufferers, even as nations marks World Tuberculosis Day today.
Before now, it was hard for people in many countries to access diagnostic services, particularly for MDR-TB. However, WHO said in a statement yesterday ahead of the World Tuberculosis Day that the project, known as EXPAND-TB (Expanding Access to New Diagnostics forTB), financed by UNITAID, has helped to triple the num- ber of MDR-TB cases diagnosed in participating countries.
According to WHO Director-General, Dr. Margaret Chan, who spoke in a statement to mark the World TB Day yesterday, "earlier and faster diagnosis of all forms of TB is vital. It improves the chances of people getting the right treatment
and being cured, and it helps stop spread of drug-resistant disease."
For the Director of WHO's Global TB Programme, Dr. Mario Raviglione, "the gap in access to TB diagnostics and
care is far from filled, but is narrowing. With the impetus of modern laboratories, we are on the right track finally to handle MDR-TB."
Until now, some countries had only one central laboratory, which often has limited capacity to diagnose MDR-
TB. In some cases, patients' samples have to be sent to other countries for testing.
Moreover, traditional diagnostic tests could take over two months to get results. The situation is now changing, as new technologies could rapidly diagnose TB and drug-resistant TB in as little as two hours.
Established in 2006 by Brazil, Chile, France, Norway and the United Kingdom, UNITAD provides sustain- able funding to tackle inefficiencies in markets for medicines, diagnostics and prevention of Human Immuno deficiency Virus (HIV)/Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS), malaria and tuberculosis in developing countries.
A third of the estimated nine million people falling ill with TB each year does not get the needed care, but according to WHO, the projecthas delivered impressive results, as over 30 per cent of the MDR-TB cases detected globally in 2012 were from
Also, 90 per cent of India's detected MDR-TB cases were through EXPAND-TB supported services, and use of these tests requires strengthened laboratory services. By the end of 2013, 92 laboratories were fully operational. From 2009 to 2013, the num-
ber of MDR-TB cases diagnosed in the 27 countries tripled, with 36,000 diagnosed in 2013 alone.
The project has enabled more patients to be treated with quality-assured second-line TB medicines. Through that demand, the project has helped to reduce the price of individual medicines and MDR-TB treatment regimens by one third. Prices have also
dropped for diagnostic commodities.
Project partners are WHO and the Global Laboratory Initiative (GLI), the Stop TB Partnership's Global Drug Facility and FIND. Project funds have been used to purchase testing equipment and commodities, and to train laboratory technicians.
Ministries of health are now working on securing domestic funding for the medium-term and working with partners to fill financing shortfalls for quality diagnostic tests and services. In 2009, UNITAID provided $87 million to support the
EXPAND-TB , multi-partner project to enable effective, sustained access and use of the recommended new TB diagnostic technologies in 27 low and middle-income countries. These countries together carry 40 per cent of the estimated global MDR-TB
By Chukwuma Muanya
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