Failed TB mines trial being discussed

2012-03-12 14:49

Leading local and international tuberculosis experts will meet in Johannesburg tomorrow to discuss the outcome of a local TB trial that failed to yield positive results, as well as map the way forward on TB prevention research.

Described as the largest TB prevention trial to date, it was hoped the research – conducted in 15 gold mines in Gauteng, North West and Free State – would provide the answer to preventing further TB infections.

Preliminary findings revealed that providing miners with isoniazid preventive therapy (IPT) failed to reduce the rate of TB infection in mining communities.

Isoniazid is a drug used to fight TB bacteria and is commonly used to treat patients who may have been exposed to the airborne disease.

About 80 000 miners participated in the study. More than 24 000 of them who didn’t have TB were randomly selected and given a nine-month course of IPT.

The remainder of those who didn’t have TB were screened and treated according to the TB control programme while the rest of those with suspected active TB were referred for further treatment.

Findings released by the Aurum Institute in South Africa and the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine at the 19th Conference on Retroviruses and Opportunistic Infections (CROI) in Seattle, Washington, on Thursday night, showed that the TB prevalence was 2.3% in the intervention mines (those receiving IPT) compared with 2.1% in the control mines.

David Manetja, chief director for TB control at the Department of Health, said it was “a huge blow for TB prevention research in this country.

“It is disappointing because if it had been proven to work it would have expanded our ability to provide a much bigger coverage with regards to giving people IPT and therefore protecting them from contracting TB,” Manetja said.

South Africa is ranked third on the list of 22 high-burden tuberculosis countries in the world.

In the general population incidence is estimated at about 900 per 100 000 people and on the mines it is between 4 000 per 100 000.

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