In this opinion paper, we discuss lessons learned from the global scale-up of these laboratory devices and the pathway to tapping the potential of laboratory-generated information in the field of TB by using connectivity. Responding to the demand for connectivity, innovative third-party players have proposed solutions that have been widely adopted by field users of the Xpert® MTB/RIF assay. The experience associated with the utilisation of these systems, which facilitate the monitoring of wide laboratory networks, stressed the need for a more global and comprehensive approach to diagnostic connectivity. In addition to facilitating the reporting of test results, the mobility of digital information allows the sharing of information generated in programme settings. When they become easily accessible, these data can be used to improve patient care, disease surveillance and drug discovery. We list several examples of initiatives that should allow data sources to be combined to improve the understanding of the epidemic, support the operational response and, finally, accelerate TB elimination.

Ethambutol (EMB) resistance can evolve through a multistep process, and mutations in the ubiA (Rv3806c) gene appear to be responsible for high-level EMB resistance in Mycobacterium tuberculosis. We evaluated the prevalence of ubiA and embB (Rv3795) mutations in EMB-resistant strains originating from Africa and South Korea. No differences in embB mutation frequencies were observed between strains from both origins. However, ubiA mutations were present in 45.5% 6.5% of the African EMB-resistant isolates but in only 9.5% 1.5% of the South Korean EMB-resistant isolates. The ubiA mutations associated with EMB resistance were localized to regions encoding the transmembrane domains of the protein, whereas the embB mutations were localized to regions encoding the extramembrane domains. Larger studies are needed to investigate the causes of increased ubiA mutations as a pathway to high-level EMB resistance in African countries, such as extended EMB usage during tuberculosis treatment.

Ethiopia has achieved rapid expansion of TB microscopic centers for acid fast bacilli (AFB). However, external quality assurance (EQA) services were, until recently, limited to few regional and sub-regional laboratories. In this paper, we describe the decentralization experience and the result of EQA using random blinded rechecking. We decentralized sputum smear AFB EQA from 4 regional laboratories (RRLs) to 82 EQA centers and enrolled 956 health facilities (HFs) in EQA schemes. From 2012 to 2014 (Phase I), the false positivity rate declined from 0.6% to 0.2% and false negativity fell from as high as 7.6% to 1.6% in supported HFs. In HFs that joined in Phase II, FN rates ranged from 5.6% to 7.3%. The proportion of HFs without errors increased from 77.9% to 90.5% in Phase I HFs and from 82.9% to 86.9% in Phase II HFs. Overall sensitivity and specificity were 95.0% and 99.7%, respectively. Positive predictive and negative predictive values were 93.3% and 99.7%, respectively. Decentralizing blinded rechecking of sputum smear microscopy is feasible in low-income settings. While a comprehensive laboratory improvement strategy enhanced the quality of microscopy, laboratory professionals' capacity in slide reading and smear quality requires continued support.

The neglected tropical diseases (NTDs) are the most common infections of humans in sub-Saharan Africa. Virtually all of the population living below the World Bank poverty figure is affected by one or more NTDs. New evidence indicates a high degree of geographic overlap between the highest-prevalence NTDs (soil-transmitted helminths, schistosomiasis, onchocerciasis, lymphatic filariasis, and trachoma) and malaria and HIV, exhibiting a high degree of co-infection. Recent research suggests that NTDs can affect HIV and AIDS, tuberculosis (TB), and malaria disease progression. A combination of immunological, epidemiological, and clinical factors can contribute to these interactions and add to a worsening prognosis for people affected by HIV/AIDS, TB, and malaria. Together these results point to the impacts of the highest-prevalence NTDs on the health outcomes of malaria, HIV/AIDS, and TB and present new opportunities to design innovative public health interventions and strategies for these "big three" diseases. This analysis describes the current findings of research and what research is still needed to strengthen the knowledge base of the impacts of NTDs on the big three.

In 2011, Ethiopia introduced a strategy of symptomatic tuberculosis (TB) screening for patients attending out-patient services to increase identification of presumptive TB. We assessed implementation and factors affecting symptomatic TB screening in 86 health centres in the Amhara Region. A quarter (28%) of the health centres in this study had poor symptomatic TB screening practices in the out-patient services. Strengthening multidisciplinary teams and expanding partner support are recommended to improve TB screening practices in Ethiopia.  

Retreatment ‘others’ refer to all TB cases who were previously treated but with unknown outcome of that previous treatment or who have returned to treatment with bacteriologically negative pulmonary or extra-pulmonary TB. This study was conducted in 11 regional referral hospitals (RRHs) serving high burden TB districts in Uganda to determine the profile and treatment success of TB retreatment ‘others’ in comparison with the classical retreatment cases. Of the 6244 TB cases registered at the study sites, 733 (11.7 %) were retreatment cases. Retreatment ‘others’ constituted 45.5 % of retreatment cases. Co-infection with HIV was higher among retreatment ‘others’ (70.9 %) than classical retreatment cases (53.5 %). Treatment was successful in 410 (56.2 %) retreatment cases. Retreatment ‘others’ were associated with reduced odds of success compared to classical cases. There is a need to review the diagnosis and management of retreatment ‘others’.

Ziehl-Neelsen (ZN) bright-field microscopy is time-consuming, with poor sensitivity, even under optimal conditions. Introduction of Primo Star iLED fluorescent microscopy (FM) may improve TB case finding at referral hospitals in Rwanda. Laboratory technicians demonstrated high acceptance of iLED. The 100% concordance at both demonstration sites during the continuation phase shows technicians' rapid command of the new iLED microscope in a relatively short time. Additionally, fluorescent microscopy reduces the time necessary for examination by more than half. The high level of agreement between iLED and FM during implementation in both sites provides initial evidence for iLED to replace current methods.

To determine the yield of a household contact investigation for tuberculosis (TB) under routine programme conditions. The objective of this study was to determine the yield of a household contact investigation for tuberculosis (TB) under routine programme conditions.Between April 2013 and March 2014, TB clinic officers in Amhara and Oromia regions, Ethiopia, conducted symptom-based screening for household contacts of 6,015 smear-positive TB (SS+ TB) index cases. We calculated the yield in terms of number needed to screen (NNS) and number needed to test (NNT). The NNS to detect a TB case all forms and SS+ TB was respectively 40 and 132. The NNT to diagnose a TB case all forms and SS+ TB was respectively 2.4 and 8. The yield of the household contact investigation was over 10 times higher than the estimated prevalence in the general population; household contact investigations can serve as an entry point for childhood TB care.

The Ethiopian HIV epidemic is currently on the wane. However, the situation for infected children is in some ways lagging behind due to low treatment coverage and deficient prevention of mother-to-child transmission. Too few studies have examined HIV infected children presenting to care in low-income countries in general. Considering the presence of local variations in the nature of the epidemic, a study in Ethiopia could be of special value for the continuing fight against HIV. The aim of this study is to describe the main characteristics of children with HIV presenting to care at a district hospital in a resource-limited area in southern Ethiopia. The aim is also to analyse factors affecting pre-ART loss to follow-up, time to ART-initiation, and disease stage upon presentation. The loss to follow-up is alarmingly high and children present too late. Further research is needed to explore specific causes and possible solutions.

Equipping medical graduates with the competence to manage tuberculosis is not just imperative, but also urgent as the disease has been consistently listed as one of the major causes of morbidity and mortality in Nigeria. However, there were no baseline studies done on knowledge of final year medical students on various aspects of TB diagnosis and management under directly observed treatment short course therapy (DOTS), which forms the basis of this study. A total of 241 final year medical students from three medical colleges in Nigeria were interviewed. The questions assessed their knowledge about various modes of transmission, symptoms, and management of tuberculosis under DOTS. The study reveals gross inadequacies in TB knowledge and management practices among Nigerian final year medical students. There is urgent need for incorporation of National TB guidelines into existing undergraduate medical education curriculum, as well as student rotations through activities in DOTS clinics.


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