TB fight goes digital

The North West health department has applauded the technological breakthrough in the new TB testing machine the Gene Xpert as a major step in fighting the disease.

The machine was recently unveiled by Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi and it can detect TB in two hours, reducing waiting time for those who test for the disease.

Health MEC Magome Masike said the development would complement the already successful record the province had posted in the fight against TB.

“The Gene Xpert is a new test machine for TB and it can find out if a person is infected with TB, and also if the TB bacterium of the person has resistance to one of the common TB drugs within two hours.

Many too poor to access free health services

Many South Africans are too poor to access free healthcare provided by the state, mostly due to the cost of transport.



The cost of travelling to and from clinics or hospitals place even free health services out of reach of many poor South Africans, especially from remote areas of the country, Professor Di McIntyre said in a presentation on inequality in healthcare at the Carnegie III Conference focussing on Strategies to Overcome Poverty and Inequality at the University of Cape Town (UCT).

Alarming levels of drug-resistant TB found worldwide

Scientists have found an alarming number of cases of the lung disease tuberculosis in Africa, Asia, Europe and Latin America that are resistant to up to four powerful antibiotic drugs.

In a large international study published in the Lancet medical journal on Thursday, researchers found rates of both multi drug-resistant TB (MDR-TB) and extensively drug-resistant TB (XDR-TB) were higher than previously thought and were threatening global efforts to curb the spread of the disease.

Hold state accountable for TB infections in prison, court told

The state has to be held accountable for its failure to limit the spread of tuberculosis (TB) in prisons, the Constitutional Court heard on Tuesday.

TB is South Africa’s biggest killer and thrives in badly ventilated, overcrowded conditions. In South Africa’s understaffed prisons, where overcrowding can reach more than 200%, research has shown a 90% risk of transmission.

The outcome of this case will affect prisoners’ chances of successfully suing the minister if they get TB in prison.

Dudley Lee v Minister of Correctional Services, what will it mean for South Africa?

On 28 August, the Constitutional Court will hear a case that touches the depth of what it means to be human and humane in the throes of a TB pandemic that is taking more South African lives than any other cause.

Price for rapid TB test slashed

The price of a rapid diagnostic test, which slashes the time to reach a diagnosis for the most common drug-resistant strain of tuberculosis, has almost been halved - including in South Africa.

The United States President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), UNITAID, and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation announced an agreement that will significantly reduce the cost of the rapid TB diagnostic test Xpert MTB/RIF in 145 high-burden and developing countries.

Overcrowding fuels TB in prisons

Tuberculosis (TB) rates in South Africa's prisons could be cut by up to 94 percent if the country reduced overcrowded conditions in cells and implemented active TB case finding, according to research presented at the recent South African TB Conference.

Overcrowding and poor living conditions have driven TB in prisons for centuries, but a recent court case has finally given South African researchers at the Desmond Tutu HIV Centre at the University of Cape Town enough information on conditions in one of the country's prisons to mathematically model TB transmission risks.

First nurses trained to initiate MDR-TB treatment

South Africa will increasingly move towards nurse-initiated treatment for multidrug-resistant tuberculosis (MDR-TB) in the next five years, and a programme in KwaZulu-Natal Province, which has a high HIV/TB burden, is already training nurses to manage MDR-TB patients.

Faced with a chronic shortage of doctors, South Africa moved to nurse-initiated antiretroviral treatment (NiMart) in April 2010. Now, government plans to roll out nurse-initiated MDR-TB treatment, and to make it and NiMart available at all primary healthcare, antenatal, TB and mobile outreach clinics by 2016, according to the National Strategic Plan on HIV, STIs [sexually transmitted infections] and TB.

Alcoholics more likely to get TB

Heavy drinkers are three times more likely to have tuberculosis than those who don’t drink heavily. They are also far less likely to complete their TB treatment. This is according to Professor Charles Parry of the Medical Research Council, who believes that TB patients should be screened for alcohol abuse and educated about its dangers.


“Heavy alcohol use is a risk factor for an impaired immune system and increases a person’s susceptibility to active TB infection and reactivation of latent disease,” Parry told the third South African TB conference yesterday.

Decentralizing care and treatment for drug-resistant TB

South Africa’s move to decentralize the treatment of drug-resistant tuberculosis (TB) has given rise to a crop of nurses equipped not only to initiate patients on HIV treatment, but also to prescribe for and monitor drug-resistant TB (DR-TB) patients. However, experts and government officials say the need for specialist physicians and hospitals will continue, based on research presented at the South African TB conference in the port city of Durban.