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New technology to detect drug resistant TB sooner

by Gabi Khumalo
on 02 Jul 2008
BuaNews Online
BuaNews Online

A newly launched Tuberculosis (TB) diagnosis tool is to help the country's health system to be able to diagnose drug resistant TB within seven days compared to the one currently used, which takes several months.

Health Minister Manto Tshabalala-Msimang launched the new diagnosis tool on Tuesday at the four-day South African TB Conference organised by the Foundation for Professional Development.

She said the new technology diagnosis followed a Southern African Development Community meeting hosted by South Africa where a regional Multi Drug Resistant (MDR) and Extreme Drug Resistant (XDR) TB plan was developed.

The plan called for accelerated efforts in research and development of new diagnostics and drugs for both sensitive and drug resistant TB, among other things.

"The reason for this is that successful prevention and treatment of multiple drug resistant-TB have been undermined by conventional drug susceptibility testing that is prone to difficulties and takes a long time before a diagnosis can be made," said the minister.

The breakthrough in drug resistant TB diagnosis arises from a collaborative research project undertaken by the World Health Organisation and the Foundation for Innovative New Diagnostics in partnership with the Health Department, Medical Research Council and the National Health Laboratory Service.

The minister said 20 000 new TB suspected patients were evaluated in five provinces with excellent results.

The provinces include KwaZulu-Natal, Gauteng, Northern Cape and Western Cape.

The minister said the test results confirmed the suitability of use in South Africa and other developing countries.

She explained that the study assessed the feasibility of rapid testing for MDR-TB in high-burden countries.

"The success of this research has indeed revolutionised the diagnosis and management of drug resistant TB with benefits to individual patients as well as the public in general.

"I have no doubt that this new technology as well as other initiatives by the department and our partners will also go a long a way in reducing the infection rate among others and further enrich our prospects of realising our Millennium Development Goals," she said.

She also noted that part of the reason why we continue to witness an unfortunate spread of the disease was due to insufficient investment as far as technology to diagnose the disease including insufficient progress in developing new and more effective drugs.

Dr Georgio Roscigno from Foundation for Innovative New Diagnostics said that today was a great day for TB and South Africa.

He said that 30 000 patients have already been screened in less than a year, adding that it is possible for other countries to screen patients for XDR. - BuaNews

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