GHANA – The National Tuberculosis Control Programme (NTP), Ghana is in critical need of 138 Gene Xpert machines to intensify TB screening, case detection and treatment across the country.

Dr Yaw Adusi-Poku, Programme Manager for the National TB Control Programme, said presently, there were only 133 gene expert machines available to screen people in all 261 districts across the country

Speaking at a media workshop on TB in Accra, the Programme Manager said the cost of a geneXpert machine ranged between US$17,000 and US$74,000 depending on the module.

“Although TB screening and treatment is free in Ghana, only 50 per cent of the districts have geneXpert machines and 30 per cent of the population have access to the machine,” he said.

The GeneXpert machine diagnoses TB by detecting the presence of TB bacteria, it is a small machine, about the size of a microwave oven that can fit easily on a small table and can also be used to diagnose cervical cancer and COVID-19.

The workshop organised by the Stop TB Partnership Ghana and the National TB Control Programme was on the theme, strengthening the TB response through Multi-Stakeholder Partnership.

Dr Adusi-Poku said the COVID-19 pandemic has eroded success attained in tackling tuberculosis in Ghana by accounting for a reduction in case detection and increasing the number of TB deaths recorded last year.

Before the COVID-19 pandemic in 2019, over 14 cases of TB were diagnosed for treatment, but with the onset of the pandemic came stigma, discrimination against TB patients causing people not to disclose their TB status when they visited a health facility,” he said.

He said the number of TB cases detected in 2019 dropped from 14,838 to 12,602 in 2020, and approximately 6,604 TB cases had been detected this year.

Dr Adusi-Poku said both COVID-19 and TB caused respiratory symptoms including cough, shortness of breath, fever and weakness.

A pilot study conducted in the first quarter of 2021 in the Greater Accra Region for suspected COVID-19, yielded 13 per cent cases compared to 9.7 per cent of COVID-19 among tested participants,” he said.

The World Health Organization’s (WHO) report on TB released in October 2021, showed that in 2020, more people died from TB, with far fewer people being diagnosed and treated or provided with TB preventive treatment compared with 2019, and overall spending on essential TB services falling.

The first challenge is a disruption in access to TB services and a reduction in resources. In many countries, human, financial and other resources have been reallocated from tackling TB to the COVID-19 response, limiting the availability of essential services,” the report said.

Tuberculosis (TB), the second infectious disease after COVID- 19 is caused by bacteria called Mycobacterium tuberculosis. It mostly affects the lungs and can spread when people who are sick with TB expel bacteria into the air by coughing.

TB is preventable and curable, about per cent of people who develop TB disease can be successfully treated with a six-month drug regimen; treatment has the added benefit of curtailing onward transmission of infection.

Dr Adusi-Poku appealed to corporate organizations and individuals to assist the Programme purchase the multipurpose machine to diagnose more cases for treatment.

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