Eradicating Tuberculosis: New programme to reach the most vulnerable

The Rt Hon Minister Wendy Morton, [Parliamentary Under Secretary of State in the Foreign & Commonwealth Office and Department for International Development] has announced today that a consortium of international, regional and national health research and policy organisations working in Africa and the UK will work collaboratively on a new research programme, Leaving no-one behInd: transforming Gendered pathways to Health for TB (LIGHT). Funded with UK aid from the UK government, LIGHT will work to improve pathways to quality Tuberculosis (TB) healthcare in high-density urban settings in four African countries (Nigeria, Kenya, Uganda and Malawi), ensuring that interventions will reach those who need them most. The programme will create an enabling and supportive environment for the introduction and scale-up of new TB diagnostics, treatments and vaccines to meet global targets to eradicate TB. Despite commitment to ambitious global targets to end the TB pandemic by 2035, the pace of decline is not fast enough to reach these targets and could be derailed by the spread of COVID-19, increasing the urgency of this work.

In low -and middle- income countries, studies have shown that out of every three adults with TB two are men. Targeting men and their behaviours is an important way to address their unique vulnerability to the disease and limit the spread of the deadly disease to women and children.  This work will help in reaching global health goals and bringing an end to global poverty.

“For a long time the TB in men statistic has been ignored, in all research and care programs year after year, two thirds of TB patients are men, yet this had been taken as the normal. As countries start to register success in the TB epidemic control, targeted interventions will be needed. TB prevention programs as well as diagnostic and treatment programs will need to to respond to the health-seeking behaviours of men, women, girls and boys. There is therefore need for research that can inform the design of appropriate prevention and treatment programmes, including mobile services working with community leaders as well as programmes that target mobile and migrant communities. There is no better time for the LIGHT project than when we are facing yet another respiratory disease pandemic that also affects mainly men like TB”, Dr. Bruce Kirenga, Makerere University Lung Institute.

According to Professor Bertie Squire, Dean of Clinical Sciences and International Public Health at LSTM and Research Director of the Programme “There is increasing evidence that global efforts to end the TB and HIV epidemics are undermined by under-diagnosis, under-treatment and under-reporting, especially among men, who contribute to continuing disease transmission, including to women and children. It is essential that we find transformational ways to End TB by ensuring that drugs, vaccines and diagnostics are targeted in the right ways to ensure they can have maximum impact. We are delighted to have been awarded this funding and anticipate deploying almost £8m strategically over the coming six years, increasing the returns on investments in research and development for new TB technologies.”

LIGHT will be implemented by a multidisciplinary team of health and research uptake experts who will devise and implement optimal access strategies to prevent, detect and treat TB using health and non-health sector approaches. This will result in a new evidence-base on options and approaches to maximise equitable and gender responsive access to healthcare services for TB in urban, HIV-prevalent settings.

With the COVID-19 pandemic, attention and resources are bound to shift and this will see an increased burden in other lung health diseases, leaving the already vulnerable populations worse off. The situation calls for more sustainable interventions than we have had in the past. The new Research Programme hopes to achieve sustained acceleration in the attainment of global TB goals in sub-Saharan Africa by securing changes in policy and practice toward value-for-money, gender sensitive and pro-poor TB interventions.

TB has infected about a quarter of the world’s population and in 2018 is estimated to have caused 10 million people to fall ill, killing 1.4 million. TB is the world’s deadliest infectious disease, a source of one-third of global antimicrobial resistance (AMR) deaths and the leading cause of death among people living with HIV. Despite commitment to ambitious global targets to end the TB pandemic by 2035, the pace of decline is not fast enough to reach these targets and could be derailed by the spread of COVID-19.

Our consortium includes leading organisations working in global health, led by the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine (LSTM), with the African Institute for Development Policy (AFIDEP), Respiratory Society of Kenya (RESOK) –[formerly Kenya Association for the Prevention of Tuberculosis and Lung Disease (KAPTLD)], Makerere University Lung Institute (MLI), Zankli Research Centre (ZRC) , Malawi-Liverpool-Wellcome Trust Research Programme (MLW) and the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine (LSHTM).

Global Health Minister Wendy Morton said: “Liverpool scientists are working incredibly hard with colleagues in the UK and around the world to help fight infectious diseases and save lives. Today’s global discussion reinforced the need for international co-operation on research to fight this pandemic.”

It’s Time to end TB.

Ends

           

About LIGHT

LIGHT, a consortium led by LSTM and funded with UK aid from the UK government, aims to improve access to TB services in Africa. The Research Programme will generate a new evidence-base on options and approaches to maximise equitable and gender sensitive access to healthcare services for TB in urban, HIV-prevalent settings.                                                          

LIGHT is a consortium of leading organisations working in global health, led by the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine (LSTM), with the African Institute for Development Policy (AFIDEP), Respiratory Society of Kenya (RESOK) –[ formerly Kenya Association for the Prevention of Tuberculosis and Lung Disease (KAPTLD)], Makerere University Lung Institute (MLI), Zankli Research Centre (ZRC) , Malawi-Liverpool-Wellcome Trust Reseach Programme (MLW) and the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine (LSHTM).

 

Contact:

Makerere University Lung Institute Contacts:

Dr. Bruce Kirenga: brucekirenga@yahoo.co.uk  ; +256782404431

Dr. Winceslaus Katagira: wincegira@gmail.com; +256782869980