Wednesday July 17, 2019

WHO Claims, Novel Oral Treatment More Effective in Fighting Multidrug-Resistant Tuberculosis

The WHO says it is hopeful the new oral treatment program it is launching will be more effective in controlling the spread of the particularly virulent form of tuberculosis. 

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A tuberculosis patient holds medicines at the Lal Bahadur Shastri Government Hospital at Ram Nagar in Varanasi, India, March 13, 2018. VOA

Tuberculosis has plagued humans for thousands of years and continues to do so. In advance of this year’s World TB Day, March 24, the World Health Organization is issuing a call to action to eradicate the disease by 2030.

As part of these efforts, the WHO is launching an oral drug regimen it says can more effectively treat people with multi-drug resistant tuberculosis.

TB remains the world’s deadliest infectious disease, killing nearly 4,500 people a day and infecting 10 million people a year.

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As part of these efforts, the WHO is launching an oral drug regimen it says can more effectively treat people with multi-drug resistant tuberculosis. VOA

Despite the grim statistics, much progress has been made in the diagnosis, prevention and treatment of the disease. The WHO says 54 million lives have been saved since 2000. But the WHO also warns the gains risk being lost with the emergence of multidrug-resistant TB or MDR-TB.

The current treatment for MDR-TB involves a two-year treatment course of painful injections, which provoke many bad side effects.

The WHO says it is hopeful the new oral treatment program it is launching will be more effective in controlling the spread of the particularly virulent form of tuberculosis.

The director of the WHO’s Global TB Program, Tereza Kasaeva, told VOA the new oral drug treatment the WHO is recommending has far fewer adverse side effects.

“Of course, it will be definitely much, much easier and there will not be a need for regular frequent visits of the physicians or health workers for making these injections. No doubt, as we see from the data, the effectiveness, the treatment success will be definitely much, much higher,” Kasaeva said.

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The director of the WHO’s Global TB Program, Tereza Kasaeva, told VOA the new oral drug treatment the WHO is recommending has far fewer adverse side effects.
VOA

The South African government has announced it plans to adopt the injection-free treatment. Kasaeva said the cost of the oral treatment is around $2,000, which is largely unaffordable for low-income countries.

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She said South Africa is engaging in talks with pharmaceutical companies to drop the price to $400.

The WHO says South Africa is one of the 20 countries most affected by MDR-TB. Others include Russia, China, India, Nigeria, Pakistan and Vietnam. (VOA)

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Efforts to Contain Spread of Ebola Virus to Remain Elusive Unless Cycle of Violence is Broken

A senior World Health Organization official warns efforts to contain the spread of the deadly Ebola virus

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Ebola, Violence, WHO
Ebola workers enter a house to decontaminate the body of a woman suspected of dying from Ebola, before the vehicle of the health ministry Ebola response team was attacked in Beni, northeastern Congo Monday, June 24, 2019. VOA

A senior World Health Organization official warns efforts to contain the spread of the deadly Ebola virus in the Democratic Republic of Congo will remain elusive unless the vicious cycle of violence in the region is broken.  Latest WHO figures put the number of Ebola cases at 2284, including 1540 deaths and 637 survivors.

WHO Assistant Director-General for Emergency Response Ibrahima Soce Fall says there has been good progress in scaling up operations to contain the spread of the deadly ebola virus in conflict-ridden North Kivu and Ituri provinces.

Fall has just returned from a three-month stint in Butembo, the epicenter of the Ebola epidemic in DR Congo.  He says last week there were 79 new Ebola cases, 27 fewer than the previous week.  He says infections are continuing to fall in the major urban centers of Butembo and Katwa thanks to coverage in all 33 health areas.

At the same time, he tells VOA the operation is running into difficulty in the rural areas of Mabalako and Mandima, the new hot spots of the epidemic.

Ebola, Violence, WHO
Congolese security forces attend the scene after the vehicle of a health ministry Ebola response team was attacked in Beni, northeastern Congo Monday, June 24, 2019. VOA

“The access is more challenging.  In the same area, we have some villages where you have both ADF (Allied Democratic Forces) armed group coming from Uganda and some Mai Mai groups,” said Fall.  “So, access needs to be assessed on a daily basis to be able to move up to the intervention.  So, it is really important to take into account this very volatile situation.”

Eastern DRC has been politically unstable since 1998.   There are an estimated 4.5 million internally displaced people in the country.  The UN High Commissioner for Refugees says new displacements are occurring mainly in the eastern provinces of Ituri and North and South Kivu.  More than 100 armed groups reportedly are engaged in sporadic fighting in the region.

Fall says constant and skilled negotiations with the armed groups are needed to gain access to these volatile areas.

“The outbreak started there last year and spread to other areas,” Fall said. “So, it is important to break this vicious cycle to contain very quickly the situation in Mabalako and Mandima, where we have more than 55 percent of the cases coming from.”

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Fall says it will be exceedingly difficult to contain the virus if more money is not immediately forthcoming.   He says $98 million is needed to support the government-led response to defeat ebola.  To date, he says less than half that amount has been received. (VOA)