TB research urgent - Health Minister

2012-03-23 12:22
Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi has called for urgent research into tuberculosis. (Duncan Alfreds, News24)

Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi has called for urgent research into tuberculosis. (Duncan Alfreds, News24)

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Cape Town - Urgent research is needed to fight the spread of tuberculosis, particularly in poor countries, the health minister has said.

"In terms of TB research, the whole world went to sleep and we're regretting it because we thought we had defeated TB," Minister of Health Aaron Motsoaledi told News24.

Albert Schatz, Elizabeth Bugie, and Selman Waksman isolated Streptomyces griseus or streptomycin, the first bacterial agent effective against M. Tuberculosis in 1944.

"The last diagnosis of TB was 50 years ago," Motsoaledi added.

TB is on the increase and a significant effort is required to limit the spread of the killer disease marked by high prevalence in poor communities and low compliance with treatment schemes.

Prevalence

According to the World Health Organisation, the incidence rate in sub-Saharan Africa is over 350 cases per 100 000 population.

Motsoaledi said that funding was required to beat the disease that is "out of control".

"Because there has been a resurgence of TB - absolutely out of control - the global fund when it was established to fight HIV/Aids, TB and malaria, established what is called a 'Stop TB partnership'."

The Stop TB partnership which operates as secretariat hosted by the World Health Organisation aims fight the disease in 100 countries.

"It's only seven years ago that the Stop TB partnership gathered a group of scientists to go deeper into TB research and last year they came with gene experts which can diagnose TB in two hours, rather than two days to a week which been happening over the past 50 years," said Motsoaledi.

He added that South Africa's prevalence was the highest among countries in the Southern African Development Community (SADC) region.

"The bad news is that out of the 22 high burden countries in the world, between five and seven countries are within SADC.

"So the TB is found within SADC, unfortunately South Africa is number one, especially in the gold mines in South African - that's where TB is the biggest killer."

According to the latest statistics from the World Health Organisation, there were 335 974 cases of TB in 2010, and of those 60 580 were due re-treatments due to patient default, relapse and treatment failure.

"So we have to bring back scientists to try and fight the disease and before the end of this year [2012] the Wealth Organisation, the Global Fund and the World Bank are going to come to South Africa, bringing together all the ministers of health in SADC, ministers of labour in SADC, minsters of minerals in SADC - we need a totally new strategy to fight TB," Motsoaledi said.

To counter patient default and treatment failure rates, Motsoaledi called for co-ordination of TB treatment in the SADC region.

"The treatment of TB in SADC will be streamlined; we use the same treatment, we use the same regimes; we put scientists together."


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