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New TB test unveiled

Friday March 25th, 2011

A new diagnostic test can identify people with drug-resistant tuberculosis (DR-TB) in hours, a report by Médecins Sans Frontières says.

The test, revealed for World TB Day, has the potential to save thousands of lives, according to the humanitarian organisation.

Drug-resistant TB is on the rise and kills about 150,000 people every year, but only one in 30,000 cases is actually detected.

If a patient has to wait too long for a definitive diagnosis – it can be up to three months - it can be fatal.

Dr Jennifer Hughes of MSF in Khayelitsha, South Africa, said it was more important than ever to solve the major pricing and supply problems linked to DR-TB medicines.

“Now that we have a new test, we’re going to see many more people who will need reliable drug supplies to get cured,” she said.

“We need to see some immediate action to resolve these problems and improve access to drugs so that more people are started on treatment and transmission of this disease is reduced.”

MSF’s report found that four of the recommended medicines for DR-TB are available from only one quality-assured source, which carries a risk of dangerous treatment interruption for patients, it said.

The organisation also found that the complex regimens of drugs that patients with DR-TB have to take are riddled with supply and price problems.

“Patients have been stuck in a vicious circle – not enough people are diagnosed, and drug supply problems, along with high prices, stand in the way of putting more people on treatment,” said Dr Tido von Schoen-Angerer, executive director of MSF’s Campaign for Access to Essential Medicines.

“The low demand for DR-TB drugs has made the market unattractive for producers, which is reinforcing supply and price problems.”

Meanwhile, the World Lung Foundation has published a white paper exploring the links between tuberculosis and tobacco use.

The paper, entitled Directions: The Deadly Pairing of Tuberculosis and Smoking by Dr Neil Schluger, WLF chief scientific officer, analyses research from around the world and demonstrates for the first time that tobacco is a major risk factor for TB.

Tags: Africa | Pharmaceuticals | Respiratory | World Health

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