TB is one of the archetypal diseases of poverty. Malnutrition, poor and crowded housing and now of course the HIV pandemic increase the toll. 20% of the worlds population are infected. Half of Reachout’s HIV clients will at some point have active TB and half of the clients who die will die from TB. That’s approximately 50 deaths a year among our 2400 clients.
It’s also an archetypal disease of poverty because it is ignored by richer countries. Our primary diagnostic test is examination of sputum by microscopy invented in 1882 by Robert Koch. Our standard treatment regime requires 8 months of treatment with drugs that are now more than 50 years old.
Access to HIV treatment has leapfrogged care for TB. Half our clients are on antiretroviral agents (costing hundreds of dollars every year) that offer them the possibility of longterm control of HIV. Yet we don’t have the capacity to screen for TB or offer preventative treatment for it.
New culture techniques have been developed that dramatically improve our ability to diagnose TB at low cost (see MODS test at http://www.upch.edu.pe/facien/dbmbqf/mods/mods.htm). I want to help set up a TB lab at the
The picture shows Mycobacterium Tuberculosis in culture using the MODS technique