By Joyce Ojanji

With about seven in 10 tuberculosis (TB) cases in the African region now being diagnosed and treated marking the highest case detection rate in the region ever, the World Health Organization (WHO) has called for further efforts to meet the 2030 global End TB Strategy targets to cut deaths by 90% and cases by 80%.

“More efforts are still needed to reduce the devastating impacts of this disease on families and communities. As WHO, we continue working closely with governments to address the barriers to effective response and speed up the momentum to make TB history,” said Dr Matshidiso Moeti, WHO Regional Director for Africa.

According to Dr Moeti, limited access to health services, inadequate health infrastructure, insufficient quality of care, inadequate human resources for health and inadequate social protection are impeding progress to end TB and hence, called for increased investments in TB control programmes.

The region, which accounts for 23% of TB cases and 33% of deaths globally, is making steady progress towards ending the disease.  The WHO End TB Strategy calls for countries to reduce TB deaths by 75% and cases by 50% by 2025 compared with the 2015 levels.

Elsewhere, TB Alliance with funding from the Australian Government through the Partnerships for a Healthy Region initiative and in close collaboration with the Department of Health (DOH), Philippines has launched Peer-to-Peer Learning for Innovative Cures (PeerLINC) Knowledge Hub to help speed the worldwide programmatic implementation of innovative, more effective treatments for the disease, starting with the WHO-recommended six-month, all-oral BPaL/M regimens, composed of the antibiotics bedaquiline (B), pretomanid (Pa), and linezolid (L), with or without moxifloxacin (M).

PeerLINC will help countries implement best practices in the treatment of TB by providing practical training and technical assistance to countries to support this objective, via experts from the Philippines and the Department of Health, including the Lung Center of the Philippines and the National TB Reference Laboratory (NTRL).

‘’TB Alliance works to minimize the gap between research and access, ensuring people anywhere in the world can have access to new treatments as soon as possible, maximizing the number of lives and livelihoods saved,” said Sandeep Juneja, Senior Vice President of Market Access at TB Alliance.

“PeerLINC will make training and knowledge on new treatments available swiftly and efficiently to ensure their rapid adoption and roll out. We are proud to launch PeerLINC in the Philippines with DOH and TDF and establish the first Knowledge Hub on the introduction of new DR-TB regimens, and we are grateful for the support of Australia in helping make this a reality.

The hub will also offer support such as advice, assistance, training materials, tools, guides, and other materials to TB programs, clinicians, lab specialists, and community organizations, all delivered through peer-to-peer learning models.

Trainings will be provided in-person in the Philippines or in the beneficiary country or remotely through virtual meetings. The expert team from PeerLINC will continue to guide countries after trainings, as they work to implement the regimens. A delegation from Peru is scheduled to visit PeerLINC in April 2024 and will be the first to receive training on BPaL/M from PeerLINC and its partners in the DOH.

“We are excited to visit the PeerLINC Knowledge Hub and work with experts from the early implementers of the short, highly effective treatments for drug-resistant tuberculosis,” said Dr. Valentina Alarcón, Executive Director at the Directorate of Tuberculosis Prevention and Control – MINSA Peru.

“The communities affected by resistant tuberculosis in Peru deserve the best possible experiences and treatment schemes and we are taking measures to access the BPaL and BPaL/M regimens and make them available to people throughout Peru in a timely and rapid manner. Our experience with PeerLINC will help us achieve those goals.”