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Can medical science cure SA's TB?

29 May 2012, 07:08

A recent AFP News report by Dona Bryson spoke of South Africa's new and very ambitious goal of wanting to test hundreds of thousands of the 600 000 people working in the South African mining industry for tuberculosis in its long and hard fight against TB.

     Part and parcel of the UN's Millennium Development Goal was to at least halve TB incurred deaths by 2015.Half the deaths they say! Could it just be  a s***ty pipe dream and a lost cause by medical science trying to fix something that they can't never hope to achieve.

       What is TB exactly?

     Tuberculosis according to the World Health Organization is "an infectious bacterial disease caused by mycobacterium tuberculosis, which most commonly affects the lungs. It gets transmitted from person to person via droplets from the throat and lungs of people with the active respiratory disease".       With only 0.7% of the world total population,South Africa in addition to the TB pandemic already has 5.5 million people affected by HIV/Aids or 17% of the global AIDS burden.TB in South Africa is prevalent in around 485 000 of South Africa's general population and alongside HIV/AIDS,these two diseases combined has an infection rate of more than 70% with 105 000 deaths annually for TB affected people and 345 650 death annually for HIV/Aids patients.

       What's the history behind TB in South Africa...

       TB was introduced into South Africa by European Settlers that arrived in the Cape from Britain and Holland in the 17th century, many of then having been infected with Mycobacterium Tuberculosis during the epidemic that had swept through Europe at time. Rapid exposure continued in the late 1800's with the discovery of diamonds and gold which created the right conditions for TB to spread in large numbers to formerly unexposed black South Africans made possible through really poor working conditions.

       Large scale silica dust exposure, over-crowded living conditions in hostels and general poor nutrition aided in the spread of TB. It soon spread to their family members as workers returned home to their rural environment and unlike Aids,TB's incident rates increased steadily thereafter with a peak ratio of 350/100 000 people in the mid 1960's.Currently that rate has escalated to 940/100 000 people having TB in South Africa. Its the second highest number of TB cases in the world with 30% of that number being among pregnant women.

     Can Medical Science ever fix this?

     With a DOTS control programme,TB control had been strengthened through introduction of rifampicin-based directly observed therapy. South Africa's national cure rate currently stands at 57.7% compared to the WHO target of 85%.So the ANC Government target are well below the target set out by the World Health Organization.

       Most governments and private benefactors are now working with the UN in an all out and unprecedented campaign fighting all diseases across the globe. They focussed on the immunization of children in developing countries. That meant that by 2015 at least 70million children living in the world's poorest affected areas will at least receive their year long life saving vaccines against tuberculosis, diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis, measles, rubella, yellow fever, haemophilus influenza type B, hepatitis B, polio, rotavirus, pneumococcus, meningococcus, and encephalitis.

       With concerted efforts more programmes are being put in place to provide basic health necessities, such as adequate access to clean water, better nutrition, and better hygiene education overall. Scientist however aspire to much more than just that. Instead of just providing the basics in health care,cutting-edge technology had been put forward more conscientiously and meticulously in revolutionizing the medical field so as to eradicate diseases like TB and others from our world. Can that ever happened? You be the judge of that.

     References:
     1.AFP News .
   2.www.usatoday.com/news/health/story/...03.../TB...South-Africa/.../1
   3.Drug-resistant strains of TB are out of control, warn health experts ...www.guardian.co.uk › News › World news › Tuberculosis.
   4.www.health24.com › News › Tuberculosis.
   5.South Africa announces initiative to test thousands of miners for TB....www.news-medical.net/news/.../South-Africa-announces-initiative-to- test-
   6.Introduction of Tuberculosis, History in South Africa/dev.tbsouthafrica.org/.../
   7.Awake magazine 01/07.   8.WHO | Tuberculosis - World Health Organization...www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs104/

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