Tuberculosis diagnostic technology: an African solution … think rats


Christiaan Mulder, Georgies Mgode, Stewart E. Reid


African Journal of Laboratory Medicine


Tuberculosis has now gained ranking alongside HIV as one of the two leading causes of death from infectious diseases worldwide.1 In 2014, it was estimated that 1.5 million people died as a result of and 9.6 million fell ill with tuberculosis. Despite these alarming figures, efforts to reduce the annual tuberculosis incidence rate over the last decade have resulted in only a meagre 1.5% decline.

In order to reach the ambitious targets of the Sustainable Development Goals by 2030 of reducing tuberculosis deaths by 90%, reducing the tuberculosis incidence rate by 90%, and ensuring that no tuberculosis-affected family is facing catastrophic costs due to tuberculosis, a paradigm shift is urgently needed. Recently, a series of papers was published in The Lancet on how to eliminate tuberculosis, suggesting repacking current interventions into a comprehensive control strategy. The World Health Organization End TB Strategy supports this and also emphasises the need for better adoption and rapid uptake of new tools to diagnose tuberculosis earlier, the systematic screening of high-risk populations, and the effective and rapid roll-out of these strategies in highly-affected countries. However, the practicality of achieving these components remains challenging because of the lack of a rapid, simple, accurate and affordable point-of-care diagnostic and screening algorithm that can be scaled-up to screen large numbers of individuals. Nevertheless, achievement of these goals is necessary and must catalyse the development of new interventions in Africa, for Africa, the continent with the highest tuberculosis mortality and morbidity rates.


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