Overcoming the COVID-19 dilemma in tuberculosis (TB) and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) research and care

GCRF Funding Cycle

Principal Investigator
Wilber Sabiiti


ODA countries
Tanzania, Uganda

Sustainable Development Goals
Goal 3

COVID-19 disease caused by the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) has caused a dilemma in the management of chronic lung diseases. Like tuberculosis (TB) and Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD), COVID-19 predominantly presents with fever and persistent cough. Secondly, diagnosis of COVID-19 uses nasal or oral swab, saliva and/or sputum, materials similar to those used in diagnosis of many lung diseases including TB and COPD. This creates confusion, firstly to the patient as to whether their cough is due to COVID-19, TB, COPD or any other lung disease; secondly to the healthcare practitioner on what type of diagnosis and care they should offer to the patient.

To solve the confusion, testing must be done rule in or rule out COVID-19. The test result, either positive or negative is essential to ensure safety of patient and practitioner and provide appropriate care to the patient. Furthermore, the messaging around COVID-19 has inadvertently caused stigma to cough and created the impression that every cough is caused by COVID-19. Consequently, many TB and COPD are at a risk of being stigmatised as COVID-19 patients and hence compromising their health seeking behaviour.

Based on this background we are seeking financial support to enable us test for COVID-19 and engage community for our TB – COPD study in Tanzania and Uganda. This will ensure safety of participants and researchers as well as demystifying COVID-19 and other lung diseases and the care available for both. The intervention will not only mitigate the negative impact of COVID-19 on the study but also provide new data on COVID-19 – TB and/or COPD comorbidity and generate guidelines on how to manage respiratory diseases in the COVID-19 era.

Associated SFC/UKRI GCRF funded projects on the St Andrews research portal