Diagnosing children with TB

Issue: BCMJ, vol. 52, No. 5, June 2010, Page 271 News

At the end of the 20th century it was thought that tuberculosis was on its way to being eradicated around the world. But the disease has come back with a vengeance: 2 million people die of TB each year. 

Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) teams are fighting the resurgence of TB around the globe, in southern Afri­ca, Southeast Asia, and Central Asia. 

The return of TB is accompanied by an even more worrisome phenomenon: one in four people who have tuberculosis become ill with a form of the disease that can no longer be treated with standard drug regimens. 

Every year 120000 people around the world die from this so-called MDR-TB, while nearly a half-million new cases are identified. Among those, 97.5% do not have access to an appropriate diagnosis or treatment and must live from day to day with this infectious and potentially deadly disease. 

Young children have been among the main victims of this long-standing neglect. The World Health Organization estimates that 1 million children each year develop TB. The true number is likely to be even higher since children with TB can be very difficult to diagnose. 

The most commonly used diagnostic tool for TB—the microscopy test of patients’ sputum—has remain­­ed substantially the same since it was developed well over a century ago. Microscopy misses about as many patients as it detects, and is particularly poor at detecting TB in patients coinfected with HIV/AIDS or in children.

A test that gives results fast and accurately is needed. To speed up the creation of a new TB test, MSF is suggesting a prize fund competition. See www.msf.ca for more information.

. Diagnosing children with TB . BCMJ, Vol. 52, No. 5, June, 2010, Page(s) 271 - News.

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