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TB testing slumped during pandemic

Thursday March 25th 2021

Testing for tuberculosis (TB) plummeted by almost half in 2020 because of the COVID-19 pandemic, new analysis has revealed.

Surveys by the Global Fund in 13 countries with the highest TB burden in the world show 29% fewer people were tested for TB compared to 2019, while 45% fewer people were tested for multidrug-resistant TB.

Peter Sands, executive director of the Global Fund, said: “The fewer people we find, test and treat, the more TB cases and deaths there will be, and the higher the risk of multidrug-resistant TB spreading worldwide.

“To end both COVID-19 and TB as epidemics, we must fight both diseases at the same time, increasing investments in the same tools, health workers and systems for health needed to fight TB and COVID-19 and prepare for future airborne pandemics.”

The Global Fund said the same tools its partnership has built to fight TB are now being used to stop COVID-19.

It points out while testing levels dropped dramatically in India and Bangladesh in the first months after the COVID-19 pandemic hit, they rebounded towards the end of 2020 and testing and treating of TB patients almost reached the same number as before the pandemic.

It also reports that countries have accelerated the introduction of new approaches, such as moving to all-oral treatment programs for drug-resistant TB and using smartphone apps that enable patients to report progress virtually. In India, a new program tests people for COVID-19 and TB at the same time.

“Investing to fight TB and COVID-19 at the same time will save lives from both diseases. If we don’t, we run the risk of defeating one airborne pandemic only to watch deaths and cases from another soar,” added Sands.

Tags: Flu & Viruses | Respiratory | World Health

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