South African province makes strides in battle against MDR-TB

The North West province of South Africa is reporting positive results from an effort to make multi-drug resistant tuberculosis expertise available at multiple provincial hospitals.

The province's health department reported a significant drop in the number of deaths from TB and an improvement in its cure rate, SAnews.gov.za reports.

"The province is now experiencing a drop of TB deaths from 8.2 percent in 2009 to 7.3 percent in 2011 and an increase of healing TB patients," the department said, according to SAnews.gov.za. "The cure rate has improved from 40 percent in 2008 to 67 percent in 2011, which is a greater than 25 percent increase in healing TB patients."

Tebogo Lekgethwane, a health department spokesperson, said that a shortage of MDR-TB beds necessitated that management look for alternative solutions to the problem. The department decided to decentralize the treatment of MDR-TB in 2010.

"Taung Hospital, together with Gelukspan and Koster Hospitals, were identified to offer MDR-TB services, while Koster and Gelukspan hospitals MDR-TB units are still undergoing some refurbishments to meet decentralization requirements," Lekgethwane said, according to SAnews.gov.za. "The MDR-TB unit in Taung was ready for decentralization. The process was completed in January 2010 and the hospital is now (serving) as a down referral."

Lekgethwane said that the province has approximately 96 MDR-TB in-patients and a cure rate of 65 percent. He said that while the province is making improvements, late reporting of patients to health facilities and patients who defy treatment protocol remain an issue, SAnews.gov.za reports.

"The defaulter rate is a cause for concern since non-compliance to treatment is the major contributing factor to MDR-TB and extreme drug resistant (XDR) TB," Lekgethwane said, according to SAnews.gov.za. "Treating MDR/XDR-TB is very costly compared to treating ordinary TB. This puts a huge strain on the department, given the numerous and complex public health challenges it is facing."