New technology to diagnose TB faster

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Pretoria - Hospitals in the North West province have benefitted from new technology which diagnoses Tuberculosis (TB) faster than traditional methods.

Gene Xpert is a new test for TB which can find out if a person is infected with TB within two hours and also if the TB bacterium of the person has resistance to one of the common TB drugs.

The Gene Xpert has been tested in facilities in the Western Cape, KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng in 2010.

To date, Mafikeng, Ganyesa, Tshepong, Job Shimankane Tabane, Nic Bodenstein, Taung, Joe Morolong in Vryburg, and Potchefstroom Hospitals have the Gene Xpert technology.

Provincial Health Department spokesperson Tebogo Lekgethwane said this was a great development in the fight against TB as it was now possible for results to come back quickly, meaning patients who come out positive can immediately be put on treatment.

“The province has recorded 300 to 380 cases of Extreme Drug Resistance (XDR) TB from 2009 to 2011. The new cases far exceed bed capacity of 76 beds at Klerksdorp Tshepong Hospital Complex’s Multidrug Resistant (MDR) TB Unit,” Lekgethwane said.

He said this was likely to worsen as the province began rolling out the Gene Xpert technology in all hospitals.

This obligated the Department of Health to seek alternative solutions and it has decentralised the treatment of MDR TB.

Taung Hospital, together with Gelukspan and Koster Hospitals, were identified to offer MDR TB services.

Lekgethwane noted that, while Koster and Gelukspan Hospitals MDR TB units were still undergoing some refurbishments to meet decentralisation requirements, the MDR TB unit in Taung was ready for decentralisation.

“A noteworthy achievement has been registered already with two patients being completely cured from MDR TB. The province has about 96 MDR in-patients including 20 that is currently being managed in Taung and 419 out patients,” Lekgethwane said, adding that the MDR cure rate in the province currently stands at 55%. 

Three primary healthcare facilities have been identified in Moretele, Madibeng and Maquassi Hills Sub Districts in Bojanala and Dr Kenneth Kaunda Districts respectively for community MDR decentralisation.

The province has already commenced with training of healthcare workers and risk assessment of infection control in preparation for community decentralisation rollout.

In future all health facilities will be prepared to roll out Community MDR decentralisation model.

Meanwhile, the North West province will commemorate World TB Day on 15 March in Taung with official the opening of Taung Hospital’s MDR TB Decentralisation Unit.

The official opening will be followed by a TB Indaba to be attended by TB specialist and TB Nurses. –