A recent study found that improved contract tracing and preventative measures across Africa and Asia could prevent tuberculosis from killing over half a million people by 2035. That is 35 percent less deaths caused by tuberculosis.
Tuberculosis is an infectious bacterial disease that usually attacks the lungs, but can also affect the brain, kidneys, or spine. It is an airborne bacteria that is transmitted through coughs, sneezes, or spits. The disease is the thirteenth leading cause of death globally, and the deadliest infectious disease. According to the UN, there are around 10.6 million new infections every year.
The study, which was carried out by John Hopkins University, the Arum Institute, and Unitaid, found that the transmission rate of tuberculosis could be reduced by 13 percent through the use of contact tracing and a combination of drugs. Furthermore, researchers found that 700,000 lives saved would be those of children under the age of 15. The focus of the study was HIV positive individuals and their household contacts across 29 countries. Children and those living with HIV are the most vulnerable.
Tuberculosis therapy entails the administration of 3HP, a drug treatment consisting of rifapentine and isoniazid. However, early detection is the most important step in reducing deaths. “The imperative for TB prevention is clear,” said Vincent Bretin, Director of Results at Unitaid. “This cost-effectiveness analysis proves that pre-emptively reaching all at-risk individuals – even when it requires the logistical hurdles of going into communities to find those who may not be actively seeking care – is not just ethically sound. It is a smart investment capable of making an enormous impact on the fight to end TB worldwide.”
Since 2017, hurdles to the prevention of the disease have decreased as prices of the treatment went down by 70 percent. The World Health Organization recommended bedaquiline is effective in treating multi-drug resistant tuberculosis (MDR-TB) when combined with other medications. Johnson & Johnson, the manufacturer of bedaquiline under the brand name Sirturo, was planning to extend its control of the drug using a secondary patent until 2027.
However, amid public pressure, Stop TB Partnership partnered with Johnson & Johnson to supply affordable generic versions of Sirturo to low and middle-income countries. These generic versions could be up to 94% cheaper than the current cost, and it is estimated that six million people could receive treatment over the next four years.
In the UAE, when overseas residents renew their residence visas, they must undergo TB screening. If someone is found to have TB scars, active TB, or drug-resistant TB, they will receive a “conditional fitness certificate,” a one-year residence visa, and must undergo treatment. In 2021, the number of tuberculosis infections in the UAE rose by 0.1 cases per 100,000 people, making a total of 0.82 cases per 100,000 population.
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