WHO introduces new tuberculosis antigen-based skin tests for TB diagnosis

Tuberculosis (TB) is an infectious disease caused by a germ that attacks and damages the lungs.

According to World Health Organisation, over a quarter of the world’s population has TB.

The organization estimates that 61,000 people died of TB in South Africa in 2020.

Aside from the lungs, TB can also infect the brain, heart, kidneys, abdomen, larynx, bones, lymph nodes, and spine.

Although TB can result in death, it is important to know that it is treatable.

The first step to getting help is to undergo a test.

The two common ways to test – are the TB skin test, also known as the Mantoux tuberculin skin test, and TB blood tests.

In April, the WHO announced a tuberculosis antigen-based skin test (TBST) – a new class of tests to diagnose TB infection.

TBST offers an alternative to the tuberculin skin test (TST) and Interferon-Gamma Release Assays (IGRAs).

“The diagnostic options for people with TB infection are increasing thanks to manufacturer engagement and research generating new evidence. Ensuring that everyone in need can obtain a rapid and accurate diagnosis of TB infection will save lives and reduce suffering” said Dr. Tereza Kasaeva, Director of WHO’s Global TB Programme.

So, if you have the following symptoms, then it is important to test:

• A bad cough that lasts three weeks or longer
• Pain in the chest
• Coughing up blood or sputum (phlegm from deep inside the lungs)
• Weakness or fatigue
• Weight loss
• No appetite
• Chills
• Fever
• Sweating at night

Treatment for TB

TB is curable. WHO reports that an estimated 66-million lives were saved through TB diagnosis and treatment between 2000 and 2020.

In South Africa, TB testing and treatment are free at clinics. However, it is important to know that TB can only be cured if the full course of treatment, which can take six to eight months, is completed, states the South African Government website.

Your age, general health, drug resistance, and the location of the infection determine the specific drugs and duration of treatment, states Mayo Clinic.

The most common medications used to treat tuberculosis include Isoniazid, Rifampin (Rifadin, Rimactane), Ethambutol (Myambutol), and Pyrazinamide.

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