i initiative

Space and Development…Increasing Access to Space in Africa

A Concerted Response to M/XDR TB

Posted by Simon Adebola on April 9, 2009

In a recent ministerial conference held in China, convened by the World Health Organisation, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and hosted by the Ministry of Health of the People’s Republic of China, top level representatives from countries with the highest burden of Multiple and Extensive Drug Resistant Tuberculosis gathered to discuss and evolve a strategic plan to combat this threat to global health security.

A definition of those terms are on the WHO website with a brief excerpt here
Multidrug-resistant tuberculosis (MDR-TB) is defined as resistance to the two most powerful first-line anti-TB drugs (isoniazid and rifampicin). Extensively drug-resistant tuberculosis (XDR-TB) is defined as MDR-TB plus resistance to the most powerful second-line anti-TB drugs (any fluoroquinolone and any of the three injectable drugs: amikacin, capreomycin and kanamycin). MDR-TB and XDR-TB together are defined as M/XDR-TB…A high burden country is defined as one where there 4000 or more new cases of drug-resistant TB per year, or where 10% of new TB cases are drug resistant. WHO,2009

Of the 27 Countries with a high burden of the disease, 4 (DR Congo, Ethiopia, Nigeria and South Africa) are in Africa. South Africa together with China, India and the Russian Federation account for 60% of the cases of MDR TB worldwide. The presence of this disease on African soil indicates that a united response by African countries is needed urgently. TB as is known spreads in areas with overcrowding, poor ventilation and other signs of a low socioeconomic status. The occurence of HIV/AIDS and TB co-infection is also a major reason why the disease has grown in the affected countries. Another major factor in its developing resistance to drugs is the poor healthcare systems and their inability to support effective treatment programmes. All these are factors that are faced by most African countries and a decisive repsonse is needed to forestall a crises.

A call for action was released by the STOP TB Partners who met recently in Rio de Janeiro Brazil. The Director General of the WHO, Dr Margaret Chan, also gave a moving speech. Another call was made by the co-chair of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Mr Bill Gates,
“Every country should feel the urgency, whether it is suffering from TB or not. Every country is capable of innovation, whether it is has a high-tech economy or not. And every country can adapt its systems to use the best innovations of others.”

This call to use innovative technologies is to be taken seriously as part of our revived commitment to enhance our healthcare delivery systems in order to fortify them for an effective response to TB and other infectious diseases. This includes but is not limited to the strengthening of electronic medical records for managing care and treatment data; the use of mobile technologies in healthcare (mHealth) for treatment monitoring; the use of geoinformation technologies as healthcare decision support tools and in planning treatment and public enlightenment campaigns; and even exploring multi/hyperspectral detectors in providing rapid and sensitive screening of potential carriers of the disease. This is of course to be founded on sound public health and healthcare management practice and also backed up by clinical care and scientific research into better cures, vaccines and evidence-based treatment practice.

There is room for positive global collaboration on this and African countries have a definite role to play. An enduring role that must be played till the scourge is wiped out.

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