African countries fast tracking efforts to end TB in the region
The new expanded list of countries with access to negotiated MGIT prices, the new ULTRA cartridge for GenXpert and new partnership to accelerate innovations between FIND and Stop TB Partnership were announced
Addis Ababa, Ethiopia - 24 March 2017 - World TB Day 2017 was commemorated in Addis Ababa today by a panel event co-hosted by the Stop TB Partnership, FIND, BD (Becton, Dickinson and Company) and Cepheid, and introduced by the first director of the Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (Africa CDC), Dr John Nkengasong and Dr Lucica Ditiu, the Executive Director of the Stop TB Partnership.
The panel took place following a meeting of the newly launched Africa CDC held in collaboration with NEPAD and AIDS Watch Africa. At that event, Her Excellency Amira Al Fadil, AU Commissioner for Social Affairs, focused attention on the impact of tuberculosis (TB) in Africa with her remarks: "Ending TB in Africa is a responsibility on all our shoulders, as it is a shame that TB still kills almost 700 000 people on our continent every year. We are committed to ending this disease."
The panel, "How can achieving universal health care accelerate efforts to end TB and meet the Sustainable Development Goals?" provided a platform for speakers to share country success stories in expanding universal health-care and discuss the challenges faced by countries in reaching missing TB cases.
In his introductory remarks, Dr Nkengasong noted that the establishment of Africa CDC demonstrated the strong commitment of African leaders to tackle public health threats such as TB. "Ending TB, the world’s number one infectious disease killer, requires functioning health systems, robust national surveillance capacity and strong laboratory networks, all among our strategic priorities. Ending TB will also require partnerships between institutions and across sectors, whether public, private, national or international."
The event also provided a welcome platform to facilitate accelerated action and share commitments to scaling up TB case finding in the African region. In that context, several concrete commitments were made to increase access to affordable TB diagnosis.
Following joint negotiations conducted by BD, FIND, Stop TB Partnership and UNDP, Dr Renuka Gadde, Vice President of Global Health for BD, shared that earlier today, BD had signed an agreement to improve access to BD technology used to diagnose TB for 40 additional low- and middle-income countries, making a total of 85 countries that are eligible for access pricing. "Today we are pleased to add an additional 40 low- and middle-income countries with high TB burden, as defined by WHO," said Dr Gadde.
Cepheid talked about their new, second-generation Xpert test for TB. "The Xpert MTB/RIF Ultra will be introduced gradually in 2017 following the World Health Organization recommendation that it can be used as an alternative to or a replacement for the existing test for the diagnosis of TB and detection of rifampicin resistance in all settings," said Philippe Jacon, President, Emerging Markets at Cepheid. WHO had earlier today issued a report of their expert evaluation of the Xpert® MTB/RIF Ultra, Cepheid’s new version of the Xpert® MTB/RIF test, which concluded that the new Ultra test showed better performance than Xpert MTB/RIF in detecting TB in difficult-to-diagnose and vulnerable populations, such as children and people living with HIV, and in those with extra-pulmonary TB.
As well, the Stop TB Partnership and FIND announced a strategic partnership to support innovators of new tools for TB, especially for diagnosis, to ensure that appropriate diagnostic tests are reaching the market, as demanded and needed by those affected by TB.
"On World TB Day, we so often just make statements. This year, we have several concrete commitments to share with our colleagues, partners and country programmes - more will have access to MGIT with a better price, the Xpert Ultra cartridge will help to increase case finding of people affected by TB and we are forcefully going ahead together with FIND to support innovators in the diagnostics space through our Accelerator for Impact (a4i) initiative," said Dr Lucica Ditiu, Executive Director of the Stop TB Partnership. "And our TB REACH and GDF teams are already pushing forward with new tools."
"It has been hugely encouraging to hear from African leaders about the progress being made, the strategic directions being mapped out to end TB in the region and the commitment to laboratory strengthening across the continent," said Dr Catharina Boehme, CEO of FIND. "We must fill the diagnostic gaps to increase TB case finding and halt ongoing transmission. Today we have committed to working together to advance this agenda."
 WHO Meeting Report of a Technical Expert Consultation: Non-inferiority analysis of Xpert MTB/RIF Ultra compared to Xpert MTB/RIF. Available at: http://apps.who.int/iris/handle/10665/254792