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WHO unveils a web-based TB screening tool

Kenya has in recent years made strides in Tuberculosis (TB) management with the introduction of new digital chest X-ray machines, with a target to reach more than 40 per cent of people with TB who do not get diagnosed.

Last year, in July, the Ministry of Health launched the TB Innovative Technologies Tools Project (iNTP) for TB screening, diagnosis, and prevention to escalate efforts towards eliminating TB by 2030.

Those innovations, along with improved treatments, have helped push Kenya off its unenviable rung on the global list of the 30 highest-burden multi-drug (MDR) or rifampicin-resistant TB countries in 2021.

Today, the World Health Organisation (WHO) Global Tuberculosis Programme announced the update and release of ScreenTB (screentb.org), a web-based tool designed to assist countries in prioritising risk groups for screening as well as in developing screening and prevention approaches tailored to country contexts.

Director of WHO’s Global TB Programme, Dr. Tereza Kasaeva, said in a press release that innovative technologies, such as portable digital x-ray modalities and computer-aided detection (CAD) software, have greatly expanded the reach and potential of screening implementation in recent years.

“We are confident that ScreenTB will make it easier for countries to plan and carry out systematic screening to help achieve the ambitious targets needed to end TB worldwide,”, she said.

Screening is a key action for countries to reach the ambitious targets committed by world leaders at the 2023 UN High Level Meeting on the fight against TB.

The political declaration targets to commit countries to detect and treat 45 million people with TB and to initiate 45 million people on TB preventive treatment by 2027, and this will therefore require the rapid scaling up of activities such as screening and active case finding.

Kasaeva said ScreenTB utilises data from the WHO’s latest Global TB Report and other international databases, as well as data from the published literature, to provide the latest country-specific estimates of key information on TB burden and risk factors, the accuracy of screening and diagnostic tools, and country-specific estimates of costs.

She noted that the tool lets users customise risk groups and screening tools as desired.

“ScreenTB then generates estimates of a number of important outcomes for the user, specific to the country and risk groups being screened and the tools and algorithms selected, including yield of screening, eligibility for TB preventive treatment, and costs,” she said.

The director said the tool also generates a number of figures to allow for virtual comprehension and comparison of the outcomes and is available free of charge to all.

During the inauguration of the 4th Africa TB Summit 2023 in July, Principal Secretary in the State Department for Public Health Mary Muthoni said Kenya has taken proactive measures to enhance TB diagnosis by widely adopting and scaling up the use of World Health Organisation (WHO)-approved molecular tests for TB diagnosis across all counties, a crucial step in ensuring accurate and efficient detection of the disease.

According to recent reports by the Health Ministry, between 2015 and 2020, Kenya achieved a substantial 32 per cent reduction in new TB infections, far exceeding the global target of 20 per cent. Additionally, the country recorded a remarkable 44 per cent reduction in TB-related deaths, surpassing the global target of 35 per cent within the same period.

By Wangari Ndirangu

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