Nigeria’s diagnostic capacity for Tuberculosis gains boost on US tools donation

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Nigeria’s capacity to diagnose tuberculosis and leprosy has been boosted with the latest donation of molecular diagnosis tools by the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID).

With 86, 000 “GeneXpert Ultra” cartridges made available to Nigeria’s National Tuberculosis (TB) and Leprosy Control Program, diagnosing over 10, 000 Nigerians estimated to be suffering from these diseases will get better for health workers.

The molecular tools are capable of detecting drug-sensitive and drug-resistant forms of TB, and improving detection of Tuberculosis in people living with HIV/AIDS.

Cutting the period of diagnosis from weeks to a matter of hours represents a significant breakthrough in Tuberculosis diagnosis and supports earlier treatment and better patient outcomes.

The Ultra cartridge has significantly increased sensitivity of the GeneXpert machine compared to standard cartridges, especially in patients who show low numbers of bacteria, such as those with HIV co-infection and in children, the USAID explained in a statement provided to BusinessDay

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“Nigeria has the highest estimated burden of Tuberculosis in all of Africa,” USAID Mission Director Anne E. Patterson said. “With these cartridges, officials tasked with reducing its burden in Nigeria can identify some of the most problematic strains of the Tuberculosis bacteria.”

Since 2015, USAID has donated more than 150 GeneXpert machines to hospitals in Nigeria. The GeneXpert testing platform improves upon slow and less sensitive conventional diagnostic methods, particularly for HIV-positive patients who are extremely vulnerable to Tuberculosis.

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TB can be spread from person to person through the air when a person with active TB infection coughs, sneezes, speaks, or sings. Symptoms include coughing up blood and chest pain, as well as weight loss, night sweats, fever, chills, and fatigue.

Early detection and treatment of Tuberculosis will stop transmission of infection and move the country closer to ending the Tuberculosis epidemic.

USAID has partnered since 2003 with the federal and state ministries of health in Nigeria to build the capacity of healthcare providers, expand Tuberculosis care and treatment services in the public and private sector, link patients to health services, and roll out new treatment options for multi-drug resistant Tuberculosis.

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In 2020, USAID evaluated more than one million patients for Tuberculosis, of which almost 80,000 were diagnosed with TB and started on treatment, including 1,000 cases of the multidrug-resistant strain of the disease.

Since 2003, USAID has established 1,700 Tuberculosis clinics and 700 microscopy laboratories across 18 states to improve diagnosis and treatment. It also helps develop new approaches to engage the private sector in Tuberculosis control

USAID works with Nigeria on Tuberculosis control under a new business model after entering a 2019 partnership with the Federal Ministry of Health to reinforce two countries’ commitment to meet the United Nations’ TB targets for Nigeria.

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