Recent Journal Articles by Pedro Suarez

This study in the Amhara and Oromia regions of Ethiopia assessed the outcomes of tuberculosis (TB) treatment among children younger than 15 years. Retrospective data were collected on treatment outcomes and their determinants for children with TB for the cohorts of 2012-2014 enrolled in 40 hospitals and 137 health centers. Chi-square tests, t-tests, and logistic regression were used for the analysis. Of 2,557 children registered, 1,218 (47.6%) had clinically diagnosed pulmonary TB, 1,100 (43%) had extrapulmonary TB, and 277 (8.9%) had bacteriologically confirmed TB. Among all cases, 2,503 (97.9%) were newly diagnosed and 178 (7%) were HIV positive. Two-thirds of the children received directly observed treatment (DOT) in health centers and the remaining one-third, in hospitals. The treatment success rate (TSR) was 92.2%, and the death rate was 2.8%. The childhood TSR was high compared with those reported in focal studies in Ethiopia, but no national TSR report for children exists for comparison. Multivariate analysis showed that being older-5-9 years and 10-14 years-enrolled in DOT in a health center, and HIV negative were predictors of treatment success, whereas underdosing during the intensive phase of treatment was negatively correlated with treatment success. We recommend more research to determine if intensive monitoring of children with TB, dosage adjustment of anti-TB drugs based on weight changes, and training of health workers on dosage adjustment might improve treatment outcomes.

From 2011 to 2018, 142,797 bacteriologically confirmed TB cases were diagnosed in Afghanistan. The number of household members eligible for screening was estimated to be 856,782, of whom 586,292 (81%) were screened for TB and 117,643 (20.1%) were found to be presumptive TB cases. Among the cases screened, 10,896 TB cases (all forms) were diagnosed, 54.4% in females. The number needed to screen to diagnose a single case of TB (all forms) was 53.8; the number needed to test was 10.7. Out of all children under five, 101,084 (85.9%) were initiated on IPT, and 69,273 (68.5%) completed treatment. The study concluded that program performance in contact screening in Afghanistan is high, at 81%, and the yield of TB is also high—close to 10 times higher than the national TB incidence rate. IPT initiation and completion rates are also high as compared to those of many other countries but need further improvement, especially for completion.

This is a mixed method cross-sectional study conducted in seven regions and two city administrations. We used multistage cluster sampling to randomly select 40 health centers and interviewed 21 TB patients per health center. We also conducted qualitative interviews to understand the reasons for delay. Of the total 844 TB patients enrolled, the median (IQR) patient, diagnostic and treatment initiation delays were 21 (10–45), 4 (2–10) and 2 (1–3) days respectively. The median (IQR) of total delay was 33 (19–67) days; 72.3% (595) of the patients started treatment after 21 days of the onset of the first symptom. TB patients’ delay in seeking care remains a challenge due to limited community interventions, cost of seeking care, prolonged diagnostics and treatment initiation. Therefore, targeted community awareness creation, cost reduction strategies and improving diagnostic capacity are vital to reduce delay in seeking TB care in Ethiopia.

To determine the yield of tuberculosis (TB) and the prevalence of human immuno-deficiency virus (HIV) among key populations in the selected hotspot towns of Ethiopia, we undertook cross-sectional implementation research during August 2017-January 2018. A total of 1878 vulnerable people were screened. There was a statistically significant association of active TB cases with previous history of TB (Adjusted Odds Ratio (AOR): 11 95% CI, 4.06–29.81), HIV infection (AOR: 7.7 95% CI, 2.24–26.40), and being a health care worker (HCW). The prevalence of TB in key populations was nine times higher than 164/100,000 national estimated prevalence rate. The prevalence of HIV was five times higher than 1.15% of the national survey. The highest yield of TB was among HCWs and a high HIV burden was detected among female sex workers and internal migratory workers. These suggest the need for community and health facility based integrated and enhanced case finding approaches for TB and HIV in hotspot settings.

BackgroundTuberculosis (TB) is a major public health problem. Its magnitude the required interventions are affected by changes in socioeconomic condition and urbanization. Ethiopia is among the thirty high burden countries with increasing effort to end TB.

Despite efforts to find and treat TB, about four million cases were missed globally in 2017. Barriers to accessing health care, inadequate health-seeking behavior of the community, poor socioeconomic conditions, and stigma are major determinants of this gap. This is the first national stigma survey conducted in seven regions and two city administrations of Ethiopia. A total of 3463 participants (844 TB patients, 836 from their families, and 1783 from the general population) were enrolled for the study. More than a third of Ethiopians have high scores for TB-related stigma, which were associated with educational status, poverty, and lack of awareness about TB. Stigma matters in TB prevention, care, and treatment and warrants stigma reduction interventions.

Ethiopia is among the high-burden countries for tuberculosis (TB), TB/HIV, and drug-resistant TB. The aim of this nationwide study was to better understand TB-related knowledge, attitudes, and practices (KAPs) and generate evidence for policy and decision-making. Of 3,503 participants, 884 (24.4%), 836 (24.1%), and 1,783 (51.5%) were TB patients, families of TB patients, and the general population, respectively. The mean age was 34.3 years, and 50% were women. Forty-six percent were heads of households, 32.1% were illiterate, 20.3% were farmers, and 19.8% were from the lowest quintile. The majority (95.5%) had heard about TB, but only 25.8% knew that TB is caused by bacteria. The majority (85.3%) knew that TB could be cured. Most Ethiopians have a high level of awareness about TB and seek care in public health facilities, and communities are generally supportive. Inadequate knowledge about TB transmission, limited engagement of community health workers, and low preference for using community health workers were the key challenges.

While old age is a known risk factor for developing active tuberculosis (TB), studies on TB in the population aged 60 years and older (considered elderly in this study) are few, especially in the developing world. Results of the TB prevalence survey in Uganda found high TB prevalence (570/100,000) in people over 65. We focused on treatment outcomes in the elderly to understand this epidemic better. We conducted a retrospective analysis of data from TB facility registers in Kampala City for the period 2014-2015. We analyzed the 2014-15 cohort with respect to age, sex, disease class, patients' human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) and directly observed therapy (DOT) status, type of facility, and treatment outcomes and compared findings in the elderly (≥60) and younger (<60) age groups. Of 15,429 records, 3.3% (514/15+,429) were for elderly patients. The treatment success rate (TSR) among elderly TB patients (68.3%) was lower than that of the non-elderly (80.9%) and the overall TSR 80.5%, (12,417/15,429) in Kampala. Although the elderly were less likely to test positive for HIV than the young, they had a two-fold higher risk of unfavorable treatment outcomes and were more likely to die while on treatment. However, there was no statistically significantly difference between treatment outcomes among HIV-positive and HIV-negative elderly TB patients. Compared to the younger TB patients, elderly TB patients have markedly poorer treatment outcomes, although TB/HIV co-infection rates in this age group are lower.

This study’s objective was to determine the prevalence of TB among mentally ill patients in Afghanistan. A cross-sectional study was conducted in five public health facilities and one private facility. All patients in those centers were screened for TB, and the diagnosis of TB was made with GeneXpert or made clinically by a physician. Out of 8,598 patients registered, 8,324 (96.8%) were reached and 8,073 (93.9%) were screened for TB, of whom 1,703 (21.1%) were found to be presumptive TB patients. A total of 275 (16.7%) were diagnosed with all forms of TB, of whom 90.5% were women. The overall prevalence of TB among mentally ill patients was 3,567/100,000—20 times higher than the national incidence rate. TB was independently associated with married and widowed adults, young adults, females, and oral sleep drug users. TB among mentally ill patients is very high, and we recommend that TB care and prevention services be integrated into mental health centers.

This study compared the yield of TB among contacts of multidrug-resistant tuberculosis (MDR-TB) index cases with that of drug-sensitive TB (DS-TB) index cases in a program setting. The yield of TB among contacts of MDR-TB and DS-TB using GeneXpert was high as compared to population-level prevalence. The likelihood of diagnosing RR (Rifampicin Resistant)-TB among contacts of MDR-TB index cases is higher in comparison with contacts of DS-TB index cases. The use of GeneXpert in DS TB contact investigation has an added advantage of diagnosing RR cases in contrast to using the nationally recommended AFB microscopy for DS TB contact investigation.

In 2011 the Help Ethiopia Address the Low TB Performance (HEAL TB) Project used WHO or national TB indicators as standards of care (SOC) for baseline assessment, progress monitoring, gap identification, assessment of health workers’ capacity-building needs, and data quality assurance. In this analysis we present results from 10 zones (of 28) in which 1,165 health facilities were supported from 2011 through 2015. The improvement in the median composite score of 13 selected major indicators (out of 22) over four years was significant. The proportion of health facilities with 100% data accuracy for all forms of TB was 55.1% at baseline and reached 96.5%. In terms of program performance, the TB cure rate improved from 71% to 91.1%, while the treatment success rate increased from 88% to 95.3%. In the laboratory area, where there was previously no external quality assurance (EQA) for sputum microscopy, 1,165 health facilities now have quarterly EQA, and 96.1% of the facilities achieved a ≥ 95% concordance rate in blinded rechecking. The SOC approach for supervision was effective for measuring progress, enhancing quality of services, identifying capacity needs, and serving as a mentorship and an operational research tool.

Our objective was to demonstrate the feasibility of integrated care for TB, HIV and diabetes mellitus (DM) in a pilot project in Ethiopia. Of 3439 study participants, 888 were patients with DM, 439 patients with TB and 2112 from HIV clinics. Tri-directional screening was feasible for detecting and managing previously undiagnosed TB and DM.

The objective of this study was to assess the feasibility and effectiveness of the nationally approved ambulatory service delivery model for MDR-TB treatment in two regions of Ethiopia. We used routinely reported data to describe the process and outcomes of implementing an ambulatory model for MDR-TB services in a resource-limited setting. Between 2012 and 2015, the number of MDR-TB treatment-initiating centers increased from 1 to 23. The number of sputum samples tested for MDR-TB increased 20-fold, from 662 to 14,361 per year. The backlog of patients on waiting lists was cleared. The cumulative number of MDR-TB patients put on treatment increased from 56 to 790, and the treatment success rate was 75%. Rapid expansion of the ambulatory model of MDR-TB care was feasible and achieved a high treatment success rate in two regions of Ethiopia.

Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin that increases immunity against tuberculosis (TB), decreases the re-activation of latent TB and reduces the severity of active TB disease. Epidemiological studies on the prevalence of vitamin D deficiency and its association with TB have shown inconsistent results in different countries. This study aimed to determine the prevalence of vitamin D deficiency and its association with TB in Northwest Ethiopia. A case–control study was conducted among smear positive pulmonary TB patients and their household contacts without symptoms suggestive of TB. Study participants were recruited at 11 TB diagnostic health facilities in North and South Gondar zones of Amhara region between May 2013 and April 2015. Vitamin D deficiency is highly prevalent among TB patients and non-TB controls in Ethiopia, where there is year-round abundant sunshine. Study participants with TB, females, older age groups, and urban residents had significantly higher prevalence of vitamin D deficiency. These findings warrant further studies to investigate the role of vitamin D supplementation in the prevention and treatment of TB in high TB burden countries like Ethiopia.

Tuberculosis (TB) is a major public health problem in Afghanistan, but experience in implementing effective strategies to prevent and control TB in urban areas and conflict zones is limited. This study shares programmatic experience in implementing DOTS in the large city of Kabul. We analyzed data from the 2009–2015 reports of the National TB Program (NTP) for Kabul City and calculated treatment outcomes and progress in case notification. Between 2009 and 2015, the number of DOTS-providing centers in Kabul increased from 22 to 85. In total, 24,619 TB patients were enrolled in TB treatment during this period. The case notification rate for all forms of TB increased from 59 per 100,000 population to 125 per 100,000. The case notification rate per 100,000 population for sputum-smear-positive TB increased from 25 to 33. The treatment success rate for all forms of TB increased from 31% to 67% and from 47% to 77% for sputum-smear-positive TB cases. In 2013, contact screening was introduced, and the TB yield was 723 per 100,000—more than two times higher than the estimated national prevalence of 340 per 100,000. Contact screening contributed to identifying 2,509 child contacts of people with TB, and 76% of those children received isoniazid preventive therapy. The comprehensive urban DOTS program significantly improved service accessibility, TB case finding, and treatment outcomes in Kabul. Public- and private-sector involvement also improved treatment outcomes; however, the treatment success rate remains higher in private health facilities. While the treatment success rate increased significantly, it remains lower than the national average, and more efforts are needed to improve treatment outcomes in Kabul. We recommend that the urban DOTS approach be replicated in other countries and cities in Afghanistan with settings similar to Kabul.

A total of 1,221 adolescents living with HIV, in eight health facilities in Ethiopia, were screened for TB. The TB incidence rate was 16.32 per 100 PYO during pre-antiretroviral therapy (pre-ART) follow-up but declined to 2.25 per 100 PYO after initiation of ART. IPT use was associated with a significant reduction in TB incidence in the ART cohort, but not in the pre-ART group.

To determine the yield and determinants of retrospective TB contact investigation in selected zones in Ethiopia, we conducted a community-based cross-sectional study during June-October 2014.Trained lay providers performed symptom screening for close contacts of index cases with all types of TB registered for anti-TB treatment within the last three years. Of 272,441 close contacts of 47, 021 index cases screened, 13,886 and 2, 091 had presumptive and active TB respectively. The yield of active TB was thus 768/100, 000, contributing 25.4% of the 7,954 TB cases reported from the study zones over the study period. The yield of retrospective contact investigation was about six times the case notification in the study zones, contributing a fourth of all TB cases notified over the same period. The yield was highest among workplace contacts and in those with recent past history of contact. Retrospective contact screening can serve as additional strategy to identify high risk groups not addressed through currently recommended screening approaches.

The objective of this study was to compare the diagnostic yield of GeneXpert MTB/RIF with Ziehl-Neelson (ZN) sputum smear microscopy among index TB cases and their household contacts. A cross sectional study was conducted among sputum smear positive index TB cases and their household contacts in Northern Ethiopia. Results: Of 353 contacts screened, 41 (11%) were found to have presumptive TB. GeneXpert test done among 39 presumptive TB cases diagnosed 14 (35.9%) cases of TB (one being rifampicin resistant), whereas the number of TB cases diagnosed by microscopy was only 5 (12.8%): a 64.3% increased positivity rate by GeneXpert versus ZN microscopy. The number needed to screen and number needed to test to diagnose a single case of TB was significantly lower with the use of GeneXpert than ZN microscopy. Of 119 index TB cases, GeneXpert test revealed that 106 (89.1%) and 5 (4.2%) were positive for rifampicin sensitive and rifampicin resistant TB, respectively. GeneXpert test led to increased TB case detection among household contacts in addition to its advantage in the diagnosis of Rifampicin resistance among contacts and index TB cases. There should be a consideration in using GeneXpert MTB/RIF as a point of care TB testing tool among high risk groups.

SETTING: Amhara and Oromia Regions, Ethiopia.OBJECTIVE: To determine trends in case notification rates (CNRs) among new tuberculosis (TB) cases and treatment outcomes of sputum smear-positive (SS+) patients based on geographic setting, sex and age categories.METHODS: We undertook a trend analysis over a 4-year period among new TB cases reported in 10 zones using a trend test, a mean comparison t-test and one-way analysis of variance.RESULTS: The average CNR per 100 000 population was 128.9: 126.4 in Amhara and 131.4 in Oromia. The CNR in the project-supported zones declined annually by 6.5%, compared with a 14.5% decline in Tigray, the comparator region. TB notification in the intervention zones contributed 26.1% of the national TB case notification, compared to 13.3% before project intervention. The overall male-to-female ratio was 1.2, compared to 0.8 among SS+ children, with a female preponderance. Over 4 years, the cure rate increased from 75% to 88.4%, and treatment success from 89% to 93%. Default, transfer out and mortality rates declined significantly.CONCLUSION: Project-supported zones had lower rates of decline in TB case notification than the comparator region; their contribution to national case finding increased, and treatment outcomes improved significantly. High SS+ rates among girls deserve attention.

A child's risk of developing tuberculosis (TB) can be reduced by nearly 60% with administration of 6 months course of isoniazid preventive therapy (IPT). However, uptake of IPT by national TB programs is low, and IPT delivery is a challenge in many resource-limited high TB-burden settings. Routinely collected program data was analyzed to determine the coverage and outcome of implementation of IPT for eligible under-five year old children in 28 health facilities in two regions of Ethiopia. A total of 504 index smear-positive pulmonary TB (SS+) cases were reported between October 2013 and June 2014 in the 28 health facilities. There were 282 under-five children registered as household contacts of these SS+ TB index cases, accounting for 17.9% of all household contacts. Of these, 237 (84%) were screened for TB symptoms, and presumptive TB was identified in 16 (6.8%) children. TB was confirmed in 5 children, producing an overall yield of 2.11% (95% confidence interval, 0.76-4.08%). Of 221 children eligible for IPT, 64.3% (142) received IPT, 80.3% (114) of whom successfully completed six months of therapy. No child developed active TB while on IPT. Contact screening is a good entry point for delivery of IPT to at risk children and should be routine practice as recommended by the WHO despite the implementation challenges.

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.

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.

To document the prevalence of multidrug resistance among people newly diagnosed with--and those retreated for--tuberculosis in Malawi, we conducted a nationally representative survey of people with sputum-smear-positive tuberculosis between 2010 and 2011. For all consenting participants, we collected demographic and clinical data, two sputum samples and tested for human immunodeficiency virus (HIV).The samples underwent resistance testing at the Central Reference Laboratory in Lilongwe, Malawi. All Mycobacterium tuberculosis isolates found to be multidrug-resistant were retested for resistance to first-line drugs – and tested for resistance to second-line drugs--at a Supranational Tuberculosis Reference Laboratory in South Africa. Overall, M. tuberculosis was isolated from 1777 (83.8%) of the 2120 smear-positive tuberculosis patients. Multidrug resistance was identified in five (0.4%) of 1196 isolates from new cases and 28 (4.8%) of 581 isolates from people undergoing retreatment. Of the 31 isolates from retreatment cases who had previously failed treatment, nine (29.0%) showed multidrug resistance. Although resistance to second-line drugs was found, no cases of extensive drug-resistant tuberculosis were detected. HIV testing of people from whom M. tuberculosis isolates were obtained showed that 577 (48.2%) of people newly diagnosed and 386 (66.4%) of people undergoing retreatment were positive. The prevalence of multidrug resistance among people with smear-positive tuberculosis was low for sub-Saharan Africa--probably reflecting the strength of Malawi’s tuberculosis control programme. The relatively high prevalence of such resistance observed among those with previous treatment failure may highlight a need for a change in the national policy for retreating this subgroup of people with tuberculosis.

Background: Worldwide, there were 650,000 multidrug-resistant tuberculosis (MDR-TB) cases in 2010, and in 2008 the World Health Organization estimated that 150,000 deaths occurred annually due to MDR-TB. Ethiopia is 15th among the 27 MDR-TB high-burden countries.

The aim of this study was to assess predictors of mortality among TB-HIV co-infected patients being treated for TB in Northwest Ethiopia. An institution-based retrospective cohort study was conducted between April, 2009 and January, 2012. Despite the availability of free ART from health institutions in Northwest Ethiopia, mortality was high among TB-HIV co-infected patients, and strongly associated with the absence of ART during TB treatment. In addition cotrimoxazole prophylactic therapy remained important factor in reduction of mortality during TB treatment. The study also noted importance of early ART even at higher CD4 counts.

Setting: The National Tuberculosis Programs of Ghana, Viet Nam and the Dominican Republic. Objective: To assess the direct and indirect costs of tuberculosis (TB) diagnosis and treatment for patients and households.