World TB Day 2019

World TB Day 2019

If you follow TB on social media, you may have noticed in the run-up to World TB Day yesterday that your feeds have been flooded with photos of people pointing at their watches – a reminder to all of us that “It’s Time to End TB”. I would argue we’re actually long overdue: every image brings to mind that more than 4,000 people lose their lives to TB every single day.

World TB Day rallies the community once more around the promises that have been made and the targets that have been set. Current TB diagnostics (e.g. microscopy) are not fit-for-purpose and miss a huge number of patients with TB and drug resistance. Diagnosis is the biggest gap in the TB cascade of care and there is still so much more to do.

But I am encouraged by the progress being made. Last week saw the release of The Lancet Commission on TB: building a tuberculosis-free world. The report, which provides a roadmap with five priority areas for tackling TB, is the culmination of 2 years of work, involving 37 Commissioners from 13 countries. FIND Scientific Advisory Committee member Madhu Pai and I both served as Commissioners, and together we just published a Huff Post blog on what this means for diagnostics.

Last Friday, WHO brought together key agencies, partners and civil society, seeking to develop a collaborative multi-stakeholder and multi-sectoral platform to end TB. I participated in a panel discussion, highlighting that access to diagnosis needs the right tools, in the right place.

We also attended the UK All Party Parliamentary Group on TB’s World TB Day reception last week in the House of Commons, which included the launch of the Global Cause “Ending TB” campaign featuring articles by FIND, WHO, Stop TB Partnership and TB Alliance, among others.

I’m pleased to report that there’s a huge amount going on in our TB programme right now, too. First diagnostic accuracy results will be available very soon for a next-generation urinary LAM test that enables sputum-free TB diagnosis for hospitalized patients who are HIV positive. We are also working to coordinate evidence collection and review for the GeneXpert Omni, as well as Molbio’s Truenat test, which was developed in India.

On the subject of India, our Indian team has joined forces with the Centre for Health Research & Innovation (CHRI), an affiliate of PATH, and the William J. Clinton Foundation (WJCF) to implement the largest-ever pan-India private sector engagement project in TB – JEET (Joint Effort for Elimination of TB) – and we expect the project’s first annual report to be ready soon.

I cannot end without saying once again – “It’s Time to End TB” and ensure access to rapid TB testing to all those who need it.