Thursday September 20, 2018

Now Rats may help in Detecting Tuberculosis

The rats learn to recognize the presence of TB in samples of mucus that is coughed up from the patient's lower airways.

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Rats and treatment of Tuberculosis
FILE - An African Giant Pouch rat is seen before a training session where the rats will learn to detect tuberculosis (TB) at a laboratory in Sokoine University for Agriculture in Morogoro, Tanzania, Jan. 31, 2006. VOA
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London, November 16,2017:

Giant rats are probably not the first thing that come to mind to tackle tuberculosis but scientists hope their sniffing skills will speed up efforts to detect the deadly disease in major cities across the world.

Tuberculosis, which is curable and preventable, is one of the world’s deadliest infectious diseases, according to the World Health Organization (WHO), killing 1.7 million people in 2016 and infecting 10.4 million others.

African Giant Pouched Rats, trained by Belgian charity APOPO, are known for sniffing out landmines in countries from Angola to Cambodia and for detecting TB cases in East Africa.

Over the next few years, APOPO plans to fight tuberculosis at the source by launching TB-detection rat facilities in major cities of 30 high-risk countries including Vietnam, India and Nigeria.

Rats can play a role in containing Tuberculosis
Dr. Simon Angelo (L) examines Iman Steven suffering from tuberculosis, held by her mother (R) at the hospital of Doctors Without Borders (MSF), June 15, 2016, at the Protection of Civilians (PoC) site in Malakal, South Sudan. VOA

“One of the best ways to fight TB at source is in major cities that draw a lot of people from the rural areas,” James Pursey, APOPO spokesman, told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

“It is a vicious circle. You can be reinfected. To fight TB, you have to hit it hard,” he said by phone from Zimbabwe.

Many people get infected in big, densely populated cities and spread the disease to rural areas, according to Pursey.

The rats learn to recognize the presence of TB in samples of mucus that is coughed up from the patient’s lower airways.

In Tanzania, people in communities where TB is most common, including in prisons, often fail to show up for screening because of a lack of money or awareness, placing a huge burden on health authorities, health experts said.

“TB is a disease of poverty,” said Pursey. “If nothing changes it can only get worse.”

The APOPO has seen the TB detection rate increase by 40 percent in clinics it has worked with in Tanzania and Mozambique, according to Pursey, who said that using rats to screen did not negate the need for proper diagnostic testing.

While a technician may take four days to detect a case of TB, a trained rat can screen 100 samples in 20 minutes, and a rat screening costs as little as 20 US cents, APOPO said.

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Tuberculosis To Stay on Top in The List of World’s Most Infectious Diseases: WHO

Treatment coverage, at 64 percent, also lags behind and must increase to at least 90 percent by 2025 to meet the targets of ending TB by 2030

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WHO, Tuberculosis
TB remains world's deadliest infectious disease: WHO.

Tuberculosis (TB) remains the world’s deadliest infectious disease although global efforts have averted an estimated 54 million tuberculosis (TB) deaths since 2000, the World Health Organization (WHO) warned on Tuesday.

WHO, in its latest 2018 Global TB Report, says countries are still not doing enough to end TB by 2030 and calls for an unprecedented mobilization of national and international commitments. It urges for decisive action from nearly 50 heads of state and government who are expected to gather next week for the first-ever UN High-level Meeting on TB, Xinhua news agency reported.

The report finds that overall, TB deaths have decreased over the past year, with an estimated 10 million people having developed TB and 1.6 million deaths, including among 300,000 HIV-positive people, in 2017. The number of new cases is falling by two percent per year.

However, underreporting and under-diagnosis of TB cases remains a major challenge. Of the 10 million people who fell ill with TB in 2017, only 6.4 million were officially recorded by national reporting systems, leaving 3.6 million people undiagnosed, or detected but not reported.

Ten countries accounted for 80 percent of this gap, according to the report, with India, Indonesia and Nigeria topping the list. Less than half of the estimated one million children with TB were reported in 2017, making it a much higher gap in detection than that in adults.

Treatment coverage, at 64 percent, also lags behind and must increase to at least 90 percent by 2025 to meet the targets of ending TB by 2030.

To urgently improve detection, diagnosis and treatment rates, the WHO and partners launched a new initiative in 2018 to set the target of providing quality care to 40 million people with TB from 2018 to 2022, while predicting that at least 30 million people should be able to access TB preventive treatment during the period.

The WHO strongly recommends preventive treatment for people living with HIV, and children under five years living in households with TB, and has issued related new guidance this year to facilitate greater access to preventive services for those who need it.

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Next week’s UN High-Level Meeting on TB is critical and the WHO, while calling for the health sector to address the risk factors and determinants of the disease, is particularly pushing for commitments at the level of heads of state to galvanize multi-sectoral action.

“We have never seen such high-level political attention and understanding of what the world needs to do to end TB and drug-resistant TB,” said WHO Director-General Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.

“We must ensure that we hold our leaders accountable for the actions they promise to take. And we must hold ourselves accountable for keeping the pressure on.” (IANS)