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New Rapid Testing Technology Requires a Transition Plan to Advance the Fight Against TB

Note: World Lung Foundation united with The Union North America. From January 2016, the combined organization is known as “Vital Strategies.”

(New York, New York) -World Lung Foundation today welcomed the World Health Organization's endorsement of new automated testing that promises to improve diagnosis of the disease, but cautioned that investment in such technology cannot succeed without parallel investment in health worker training and basic laboratory infrastructure.

Dr. Neil Schluger, Chief Scientific Officer of World Lung Foundation commented: “The deployment of new highly sensitive, accurate, and robust technologies for rapid diagnosis of tuberculosis and detection of drug resistance is to be applauded. The fully automated DNA testing may finally help us solve the severe under-diagnosis problem that has held back TB control for decades.

The new testing will not achieve this goal, however, if it is not supplemented with sustained investment in training and infrastructure to support the transition to such tools. TB programs are already severely under-supported and introducing new technology, by definition, requires new skill sets and technical maintenance to be effective in the long-term. Moreover, the transition to more complex and sensitive equipment must be managed carefully so that patients see only the benefits; otherwise entire TB programs could be undermined.

We at World Lung Foundation are committed to bolstering such skill sets and helping the international TB control community implement the best tools available. Combining such tools with adequately trained healthcare practitioners and robust treatment programs can move us much closer to eliminating TB as a global health threat.”

The current estimate is that more than two billion people – one third of the world's population – are infected with TB and 10% of them will develop active TB at some point.