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WHO Expert: Faster MDR-TB Test Should Be Made Available To Vulnerable Populations

A new diagnostic tool that shortens the diagnosis of multidrug-resistant tuberculosis (MDR-TB) from eight weeks to two hours should be made available to vulnerable populations according to a WHO expert, Reuters reports.

Catharina van Weezenbeek, Western Pacific adviser on TB for the WHO, told Reuters after a meeting of the Stop TB Technical Advisory Group that the tools are “very expensive, but the scale up should be carefully planned. That requires money, training, infrastructure.” She also discussed a need to scale-up detection among high-risk TB groups including migrants, the homeless and patients with risk factors like HIV. “We expect to increase the detection of childhood TB by the introduction of routine contact investigation, ensuring that the household contacts of infectious patients are screened,” van Weezenbeek told the news service.

Reuters also notes that Asia accounts for 58 percent of global MDR-TB cases, and “[a]ccording to the WHO, there are 120,000 new cases of MDR-TB in the Western Pacific each year” (7/29).

Arthritis Drugs May Prove Effective As TB Treatment

New lab research published in Nature Immunology “suggests drugs commonly used to treat inflammatory diseases like rheumatoid arthritis might be key to treating TB,” the Montreal Gazette reports. A researcher from McGill University has discovered a mechanism that would “alter the disease pathway by trapping the TB bacteria inside cell walls,” rather than allowing it to escape dead cells to reproduce and reinfect. “‘We have discovered a mechanism that could be very important for immune response,’ because it affects the susceptibility and resistance to TB, [lead researcher] Divangahi said. ‘We do have drugs that target that pathway. We need to test them. That’s the next step,'” the Gazette writes (Fidleman, 7/30).