Today we learned from the CIDRZ Director of TB Programmes, Dr Monde Muyoyeta, that 1.5 million people are still dying every year from TB despite there being an effective treatment regimen available. This is in large part because those suffering from TB are still not being properly diagnosed. We have known the cause of TB – the TB bacillus bacteria since 1882 – yet diagnosis remains a major challenge in resource-constrained settings such as ours where there is also the highest burden of disease. TB infection may be a missed diagnosis due to the long wait time to receive a lab-confirmed diagnosis; or be over-diagnosed by a clinical diagnosis because of lack of lab facilities or skilled lab technicians. Treatment also remains challenging because it takes many months, and can be compromised by poor drug adherence or drug side-effects.
However, today’s presentations on the CIDRZ TB Plus Up programme, the TB OpX, TB Vaccine, and TB Alliance studies, and the TB Lab delivered by our TB Department have been exciting! CIDRZ – and indeed Zambia – are attacking TB from multiple sides at once: diagnosis, treatment and prevention. Defeating TB will take more than drugs and I am incredibly proud that CIDRZ is looking at our programmes and research to support the Ministry of Health from a holistic standpoint. As we’ve seen with HIV, Ebola and other diseases, engaging in better ways of prevention, diagnosis and treatment is the only way to get ahead of an epidemic.
- Innovating better TB care delivery strategies by working in prisons and improving diagnosis rates among these vulnerable, high-risk individuals
- Engaging with TB Alliance so that Zambians that need treatment – and may even have Multidrug resistant (MDR) TB – have access to the latest drug combination clinical trials
- Incorporating better methods to diagnose TB into our programme strategies such as evaluating the GeneXpert MTB/RIF testing technology and providing world class TB diagnostics in our lab
- Leading prevention of latent TB from becoming active through broader provision of Isoniazid Preventive Therapy (IPT); improving infection control efforts; and conducting the first clinical trial of TB vaccines, EVER, in Zambia!
Although TB rates are dropping by 2% per year, we can’t be satisfied with that and must collectively aim to do better! My sense is that in this Zambezi conference room there is the energy, knowledge and leadership to raise awareness of the regional and national emergency that TB continues to pose. I am proud of the extraordinary work that the CIDRZ TB Department has done, and I am confident when we come together to commemorate World TB Day next year that they will report even further success in driving TB rates down and will be that much further down the road to the introduction of new drugs, diagnostics and vaccines.