Multidrug-resistant tuberculosis (MDR-TB) and extensively drug-resistant tuberculosis (XDR-TB) “are spreading at an alarming rate in Europe and will kill thousands unless health authorities halt the pandemic, the World Health Organization (WHO) said on Wednesday” during the launch of “a new regional plan to find, diagnose and treat cases of the airborne infectious disease more effectively,” Reuters reports. “The WHO said that if the plan is fully implemented — at an estimated cost of $5 billion — 127,000 people will be successfully treated for drug-resistant TB and 120,000 deaths will be averted by 2015,” according to the news agency (Kelland, 9/13).
European Development Commissioner Andris Piebalgs announced during a visit to South Africa on Monday that the European Union (E.U.) “will contribute 126 million euros to South Africa’s fight against AIDS and tuberculosis (TB),” money that “will be used to improve South Africa’s primary health care system, increasing access for patients,” Reuters reports (9/12).
Scientists at the Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI), Albert Einstein College of Medicine and Colorado State University report in the September 4 issue of Nature Medicine that “[a] potential vaccine against tuberculosis [TB] has been found to completely eliminate tuberculosis bacteria from infected tissues in some mice,” according to a HHMI press release. “The vaccine was created with a strain of bacteria that, due to the absence of a few genes, are unable to avoid its host’s first-line immune response,” the release states, adding, “Once this first-line defense has been activated, it triggers the more specific immune response that can protect against future infections” (9/4). A spokesperson for the campaign group TB Alert told BBC News, “These are interesting experiments but it is too early to tell what impact they will have on the development of a safe and effective vaccine,” the news service reports (Gallagher, 9/4).
The Wall Street Journal examines the use of the African giant pouched rat to detect tuberculosis (TB) in lab samples. A study published online in the Pan African Medical Journal last month found the rats are “better than human lab techs at identifying TB bacteria in a dollop of mucus,” a finding that “holds promise for diagnosing tuberculosis in sub-Saharan Africa,” according to the newspaper. While “[t]he rats turn up many false-positive findings of TB, so the results need to be confirmed by conventional lab methods, … [a] rat takes seven minutes to work through the same number of samples as a lab technician would assess in a full day,” according to the researchers, the newspaper reports. The rats are being trained in Tanzania by the non-governmental organization Apopo, which “primarily trains African giant pouched rats to sniff land mines for de-mining activities in Mozambique, Thailand and other countries,” the Wall Street Journal notes (Robinson (9/6).
“A potentially cheaper and faster method for diagnosing tuberculosis (TB) has been developed by researchers” at the University of Basel, Switzerland, “who hope to test it in Tanzania,” according to a study published in the Journal of Applied Microbiology last week, SciDev.Net reports. “The lack of a cheap, quick and accurate test makes it hard to control the TB epidemic, which claims millions of lives every year in developing countries,” according to the news service.
ABC News on Thursday posted six videos in its “World In 3” health series. The three-minute videos examine malaria in Uganda, neglected tropical diseases in Niger, pneumonia in the Philippines, sleeping sickness in the Democratic Republic of Congo, tuberculosis in South Africa, and parasitic worms in Brazil (8/25).
“The Delhi-based International Centre for Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology (ICGEB) and the Lala Ram Sarup Institute of Tuberculosis and Respiratory Diseases, collaborated with the National University of Singapore to develop” a urine test that “offers a less invasive diagnostic method for” tuberculosis (TB), SciDev reports. “Drug-resistant cases need an expensive, sophisticated test that takes two weeks of culturing blood samples to detect the bacterium,” but developing countries, which “account for 95 percent of new infections and 98 percent of deaths … prefer a simple test requiring minimum resources and trained personnel, and one that gives quick and easily interpreted results, the Delhi scientists observed,” according to the news agency (Padma, 8/23).
The Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, which “froze disbursements of its AIDS grant to China in November and all other grants in May over suspected misuse of the money and the government’s reluctance to involve community groups, … said Tuesday that it was lifting the freeze on financing to ensure that AIDS work in China continued while it worked with government officials, representatives from United Nations agencies and private groups to resolve the dispute,” the Associated Press reports.
Research of the common tuberculosis (TB) drug pyrazinamide, which is used in combination with other medications to treat the disease in a six-month regimen, “has now revealed that the drug does kill the latent form of the microbe, which does not cause observable symptoms,” VOA News reports.
As countries increase the use of the GeneXpert test, a two-hour molecular TB test released in 2010, “enabl[ing] them to diagnose more patients with drug-resistant tuberculosis (DR-TB), a worldwide shortage of the drugs to treat these patients is likely, Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) warns,” according to PlusNews.