SA to diagnose XDR-TB 'within seven days'

Diagnosing extensively drug-resistant tuberculosis (XDR-TB) will be reduced from several weeks—and in some cases several months—to about a week, Health Minister Manto Tshabalala-Msimang announced in Durban on Tuesday.

Tshabalala-Msimang made the announcement at a press conference before the official opening of the South African National TB Conference in Durban’s International Convention Centre.

She said: “We will now be able to diagnose drug resistant TB within seven days compared to several weeks or months using our current methods.”

She said the new testing had come about following research that was conducted after the 2006 outbreak of XDR-TB in the remote Tugela Ferry area of KwaZulu-Natal.

Previously rapid forms of TB testing had only been conducted in “low burden MDR (multi-drug resistant) countries, largely developed countries.”

She said the research conducted in five provinces had revealed that the rapid testing would be suitable in South Africa, which in 2007 reported more than 335 000 TB infections.

She said that the department, in conjunction with the Medical Research Council and the National Health Laboratory Service, were drawing up a plan to implement the new testing regime.

Tshabalala-Msimang did not say when she expected the new testing to be implemented or how much it would cost.

Shortly after the press conference, Tshabalala-Msimang opened the conference, but as she delivered her opening address eight members of the Treatment Action Campaign stood to the left of her on stage holding up a variety of signs which read “We demand leadership in the fight against TB” and “Respect the scientific governance of medicine”.

The TAC has claimed that the proposed Medicines and Related Substances Amendment Bill, currently before Parliament, would “undermine the scientific governance of medicine”.

In a statement released earlier in the day, the TAC said the Bill “would give the Minister of Health the power to block the registration of medicines of proven quality, safety and efficacy, as well as to allow the sale and provision of untested ‘treatments’ and ‘cures’”. - Sapa


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