World Health Organization Issues New Guidelines for Tuberculosis Testing
Advocates urge new efforts to address TB
The World Health Organization recently issued new guidelines for expanding tuberculosis testing. WHO also wants to improve treatment times for those with latent TB infection. Advocates hope the new guideline will assist efforts to reduce TB worldwide. The United Nations is planning a high-level meeting on TB, possibly during the UN General Assembly in September, the most visible meeting on TB to date.
The new guideline comes in response to several countries’ request for guidance on how to increase preventative steps for those susceptible to developing TB infection but who may not currently show signs of illness. This included those living with HIV and those who are HIV negative but exposed or in contact with patients with pulmonary and multidrug resistant (MDR) TB.
Health advocates are vocal about the need for action items from the planned September meetings. Many TB deaths are preventable with early diagnosis and treatment. WHO’s 2017 Global TB report stated 6.3 million new cases of TB in 2016, up from 6.1 million in 2015. These numbers account for only 61 percent of the estimated TB cases in the world. That is a deficit of 4 million undiagnosed patients not receiving proper treatment. Many factors contribute to the under-diagnosis issue, but one main cause is a lack of an effective diagnostic tool. Urine-based testing is effective for those with compromised immune systems and TB microscopy can only detect certain strains of TB. New testing technology is expensive and requires trained lab and repair staff.
Successful TB treatment requires constant vigilance, difficult to implement even with government support. TB treatment facilities in the Philippines, where patients are provided free medicines and given transportation allowances, continue to face issues of patients not completing the treatments. The international community is hopeful more investments in TB research and development uncover shorter TB treatment regiments. Two new drugs for treating drug-resistant bacteria, including one manufactured by PQMD-member Johnson & Johnson, are not registered in all countries affected by TB.