WHO Tuberculosis Plan Could Speed Rapid Diagnoses

The World Health Organization’s updated global plan to stop tuberculosis could help generate funding to bring more effective diagnostic devices to Cambodia, a Phnom-Penh based WHO specialist said yesterday.

The WHO released an update to its 2006-2015 “Global Plan to Stop TB” on Wednesday, calling for an increased investment in newly discovered technologies. Dr Rajendra Yadav, WHO tuberculosis medical officer for Cambodia, said yesterday that he hoped the plan would help secure funding from private donors, USAID and the Global Fund in order to bring GeneExpert diagnostic machines to Cambodia as early as next month.

“The machines are particularly exciting, because they can get results for tuberculosis and drug-resistant tuberculosis in three hours, when the ones we currently use can take between three days and three months, which is difficult in a rural environment,” Dr Yadav said.

The WHO’s plan is financed largely by the Global Fund, which provided $3.2 billion in funding for TB control efforts in developing and middle-income countries in 2009, according to its records.

Dr Yadav said while Cambodia has become a model for TB care–with more than 90 percent of those diagnosed receiving treatment–the rate of detection remained around 60 percent. WHO figures released Wednesday showed that Cambodia remains one of the 22 worst affected countries and with the highest mortality rate in the western pacific region.

“This is why we are excited about new machines, because we are doing caring well, but maybe not enough diagnosing,” Dr Yadav said.

Speaking by telephone yesterday from Svay Rieng province where she was surveying the TB-infection rate among children, the Cambodian Health Committee’s head researcher Christine Wagari said the lag time between tests and diagnoses hindered the treatment of suffering Cambodians.

“Svay Rieng has always showed a higher rate of tuberculosis than other provinces, though we don’t know why, and we suspect that there is a high prevalence among children who manifest symptoms differently,” she said. “But we can’t say yet because laboratory results still take between 6 weeks and two months.”

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