Written by Emmanuel Ogbeche

U.S. shores up fight against TB with diagnostic equipment

The fight against tuberculosis received a boost recently with the donation of 86,500 “GeneXpert Ultra” cartridges by the U.S. Agency for International Development, USAID.

The critical equipment was donated to the Nigeria’s National Tuberculosis (TB) and Leprosy Control Program for the testing and diagnosis of more than 10,000 patients suspected of having the disease.

A statement by the US Embassy in Abuja said the donation of the 86,500 “GeneXpert Ultra” cartridges will help Nigerian health workers to optimize the use of molecular diagnosis tools that can detect both drug-sensitive and drug-resistant forms of TB, and improve detection of TB in people living with HIV/AIDS.

The Ultra cartridge has significantly increased sensitivity of the GeneXpert machine compared to standard cartridges, especially in patients who show low numbers of bacteria, such as those with HIV co-infection and in children.  

“Nigeria has the highest estimated burden of TB in all of Africa,” USAID Mission Director Anne E. Patterson noted after the donation. “With these cartridges, officials tasked with reducing its burden in Nigeria can identify some of the most problematic strains of the TB bacteria.”

The statement further explained that since 2015, the USAID has donated more than 150 GeneXpert machines to hospitals in Nigeria, stressing that the GeneXpert testing platform improves upon slow and less sensitive conventional diagnostic methods, particularly for HIV-positive patients who are extremely vulnerable to TB. 

It is instructive to note that the machine cuts the period of diagnosis from weeks to a matter of hours represents a significant breakthrough in TB diagnosis and supports earlier treatment and better patient outcomes.

In 2020, USAID evaluated more than one million patients for TB, of which almost 80,000 were diagnosed with TB and started on treatment, including 1,000 cases of the multidrug-resistant strain of the disease.

 

Since 2003, USAID has established 1,700 TB clinics and 700 microscopy laboratories across 18 states to improve diagnosis and treatment. It also helps develop new approaches to engage the private sector in TB control      

 

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