In what will be the first study on childhood tuberculosis prevalence in Cambodia, two non-profit research groups launched a project early this month to enroll up to 1,000 infants and children in Svay Rieng province to study TB in Cambodian children.
Sponsored by the US-based Aeras Global TB Vaccine Foundation and managed by local NGO Cambodian Health Committee, the six-month epidemiological study enrolls children five and under from Svay Rieng City and Chantrea and Kompong Ro districts who show symptoms of TB. As of Tuesday, there were 49 children enrolled in the study.
Outside of Africa, Cambodia has the highest incidence of TB per capita in the world, with 495 new cases per 100,000 of the population each year, according to Vicky Cardenas, Aeras assistant director for epidemiology. But despite the high rate of TB here, Ms Cardenas said that Aeras has scant data on how TB affects Cambodian children.
“It is only through a determination of the true burden of disease in a given subpopulation that we can target care and treatment in that subpopulation,” Ms Cardenas wrote in an e-mail, adding that she expects the study to be fully enrolled with subjects by mid-August.
The children are first screened for TB symptoms at one of 30 health centers in Svay Rieng province, where two health workers in each center have been trained to detect the early stages of the disease. If the child presents symptoms, he is enrolled in the study and sent to the provincial referral hospital for further medical and laboratory tests.
Along with providing data that will aid research in childhood TB treatment, Christine Wagari, pediatric TB coordinator for CHC, believes that the study will also improve health workers’ ability to screen for and diagnose childhood TB in Cambodia.
“TB in children is so underreported,” Ms Wagari said. “We cannot use the same tools and the same screening criteria in adults and children.”