Fight Against TB a Worry in Africa

The United Nations target of halving the number of people infected with tuberculosis (TB) by 2015 can still be met, despite the fact that the number of new infections is increasing each year. This is according to a study published by the World Health Organisation (WHO) Africa's TB infections are the most problematic, due to the HIV/Aids epidemic and the emergence of antibiotic resistant TB bacteria.

Christopher Dye of WHO's Stop TB department has said, "There are few, if any, countries south of the Sahara where TB is in decline. It is more or less stable in West Africa which is less affected by TB."

The Journal of American Medicine published a special TB report. In the report global findings on the spread of the disease were highlighted. These include that less than half of new TB infections worldwide were detected in 2003; India has improved detection from 1.7 percent in 1998 to 47 percent in 2003; China has increased detection from 30 to 43 percent from 2002 to 2003; and that only 71-74 percent of African patients were treated successfully for the disease compared to China's 93 percent success rate.

The target for disease treatment is a global success rate is 85 percent. The WHO advocates the rigorous use of the DOTS strategy to reduce the African TB epidemic. Since 1997, the Directly Observed Treatment Short-course (DOTS) system has been practised in South Africa.

It has five key elements, including commitment to sustained TB control, sputum microscopy to diagnose infectious patients, a standardised TB drug combination, direct observation of treatment for at least the first two months and a standardised recording and reporting system.

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