June 22, 2009

FG begins national prevalence survey to tackle multi-drug resistant TB

By  Sola Ogundipe
TOWARDS mitigating the burden of multi-drug-resistant tuberculosis (MDR-TB) in Nigeria, the Federal government in collaboration with the Global TB Partnership and USAID, is conducting a prevalence survey of persons with TB that is resistant to treatment with first-line anti-TB drugs  in the country.

Director of Public Health in the Federal Ministry of Health, Dr. Jonathan Jiya who disclosed this to Good Health Weekly in an exclusive interview, said measures are already in place to counter the effects of multi-drug-resistant TB bacteria by making available more potent drugs in addition to ensuring better compliance with the current drug regimen amongst  users.

Recalling that the issue of MDR-TB came up about four years ago, Jiya explained that the Nigeria was experiencing the problem of resistance because since the development of DOTS, persons diagnosed with TB have been taking the anti-TB drugs, but some of them just take the drugs for some time  and stop even when these are anyi-bacterial drugs that are ment to be taken for life.

Noting that the issue of MDTR-TB is quite high, he said figures of the number of affected persons in the country were currently unknown. “We do not have the figures because we have not done the survey, but there was a meeting in Beijing in early April where we solicited support from the TB partnership so that we can do a survey in Nigeria.

He said the  TB Partnership in collaboration with USAID,  assisted Nigeria in building a confirmatory laboratory in calabarand everytrhing is being put together so that the country can do TB culture and confirm bacteria that is resistant to the first line drugs.”

In his view, Jang stressed that it was essential to obtain the capacity and capability to identify and confirm drug resistant TB bacteria so that such cases could be readily treated with 2nd line drugs.

“With the survey we are conducting, we should be able to detect 80 per cent of cases of resistance. Last year (2008) we achieved 45 per cent, but we need proper surveillance to increase the figure. We need people in the field who will be able to get reports from affected persons especially those in the villages who are sick and coughing and do not know they have TB.

“If you have TB and you take the anti-TB drugs halfway and stop, the bacteria would grow more resistantto that drug. TB is a killer and once the bacteria grows resistance to the drugs, then it is a big issue.

What we are doing is to ensure that the second level drugs are made available, but before then, we need to get a prevalence survey to know the exact number of persons that are expected to be resistant to the first line drugs. Once this is known, it will be easier to make available the second line drugs for them.”