The World Health Organization (WHO), has called for the “rigorous implementation of the STOP TB Strategy, including universal coverage with DOTS (the Directly Observed Treatment Short-Course)”, in order to significantly improve case detection and treatment outcomes.
The most important element of DOTS is a regimen consisting of a combination of first-line drugs taken, ideally, under direct observation of a health care worker.
A statement from WHO Africa office in Brazzaville, Republic of Congo, said the combination is known to be very effective against active drug-susceptible TB as long as patients are compliant and complete the entire six-to-eight month course.
“I therefore call upon all countries to implement the STOP TB strategy in its entirety,” Dr Luis Gomes Sambo, WHO Regional Director for Africa, said in a message to mark World TB Day observed worldwide on 24 March.
This was the day in 1882 when mycobacterium tuberculosis, the rod-shaped bacterium that causes TB, was identified.
Dr Sambo said: “We must endeavour to put every single patient on quality TB treatment and strive to minimize patient transfers, defaults and deaths.”
He expressed concern over the emergence of Multi-drug resistant TB (MDR-TB) and Extensive drug-resistant TB (XDR-TB) which developed when patients did not complete the full treatment of first line drugs or were infected by MDR-TB bacteria.
The treatment of MDR-TB and XDR-TB is expensive and long, and the outcome may not be so good.
“Providing quality care to prevent the emergence of drug resistant TB is therefore crucial,” Dr Sambo said.
He also spoke of the steady yearly increase in case notification of the disease in the Region, particularly in areas where HIV incidence was high.
For example, in 2007, the latest year for which figures are available, 1.3 million TB cases were notified compared to 1.1 million cases in 2005. Also between 2005 and 2007 there were noticeable increases in the number of HIV positive people being screened for TB in the Region.
“That is an improvement but our aim should be universal screening for HIV in all TB patients and screening for TB in all people living with HIV/AIDS. This will help persons infected or affected with both TB and HIV to access care and treatment, thus improving the quality of life and reducing preventable deaths,” he said.
Dr Sambo called on public and private sector health care providers as well as well as individuals, families and communities to join hands in helping to ensure a TB-free world.