Scottish innovation to ensure safe and effective TB treatment in Africa
Tuberculosis (TB), the leading infectious cause of death worldwide, is a major public health problem in Uganda with 86,000 new cases (40% HIV co-infected) and 11,000 deaths per year. Recent clinical trial results suggest that higher doses of existing TB antibiotics combined with new medicines offer hope of improved outcomes. Although new TB treatments are being developed, it is hard to know how best to use them because the tools which healthcare workers have to monitor the effectiveness and safety of anti-TB drugs are imprecise and slow. Inability to make fast, confident clinical decisions, adds to the burden of illness and the socio-economic cost of TB, especially in high-burden low-income countries.
We have developed novel laboratory tools which could help to resolve this problem. The Molecular Bacterial Load Assay (MBLA) is a rapid laboratory test, pioneered in St Andrews, which measures the concentration of live bacteria in a patient’s sputum within a few hours, and blood tests which may quickly report on adverse effects of antibiotics on a patient’s liver before serious harm occurs. This project has laid essential foundations which will allow us to fully evaluate our new tests into the care of TB patients in Uganda. As a result, healthcare workers will learn how best to use our tools to reduce the impact of this deadly disease on individuals and their communities.