24,416 children missed out on DR-Tb treatment in 2019

THE Stop TB Partnership (STBP), in its new report on Step Up for TB 2020, says a significant policy gaps left 24,416 children that were ill with drug-resistant tuberculosis (DR-TB) untreated in 2019.

The new report, prepared with Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF), stated that of the estimated 30,000 children that became ill with drug-resistant TB in 2019, only 5,586 were diagnosed, treated and notified to the WHO.

The report had examined the national policies of 37 countries with a high burden of TB, assessing the extent to which they align with World Health Organization (WHO) guidelines and international recommendations.

With an estimated 7.7 million people developing TB each year, these 37 surveyed countries represent 77 per cent of the global TB burden and 74 per cent of the estimated burden of drug-resistant TB.

The report said although 72% of countries introduced injectable- free treatment regimens for the treatment of DR-TB in children, it only benefited 5,000 children in 2019, corroborating that children with TB are often left without proper treatment because of the lack of adapted tools to diagnose TB in children.

Although WHO, since 2018, had recommended the use of oral medicines for TB treatment, it said that nearly 39 per cent of countries were likely to still use injectable medicines to treat drug-resistant TB (DR-TB) among adults, having failed to update the relevant policies in line with the latest international guidance.

On diagnosis, the report said many of the surveyed countries still have outdated testing policies in 2019 that left more than 17 million people living with HIV without access to a rapid, affordable and life-saving TB diagnostic tool.

It declared that merely 14% of the 37 countries with high burden of TB put policies in place that allow for the use of lateral flow urine lipoarabinomannan assay (LAM) testing for TB, which has been internationally recommended since 2015 for TB diagnosis.

On prevention, it raised concern on the finding that  nearly half of the countries did not have policies on the provision of TB preventive treatment to household contacts of all age groups, though they had committed to a specific UN target on this to be achieved by 2022.

With just two years until the 2022 deadline for the UN TB targets, the report called for urgent investment to get global efforts back on track and accelerate them further even as the leadership of all countries to update and implement their TB policies in line with the latest WHO and internationally recognised guidelines in time for the next World TB Day on 24 March 2021.

STBOP’s Executive Director, Dr Lucica Ditiu stated that the survey, which is conducted regularly, shows improvements every year, but still have a long way to go, adding, “We all must ensure that every single person affected by TB is diagnosed and treated using the latest available international guidelines and tools.”

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