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Aurum showcases expertise at SA TB Conference

Aurum showcases expertise at SA TB Conference

SA TB Conference delegates packed the hall for an Aurum satellite session on: Scaling up shorter TB preventive treatment (TPT) - is there a role for new TB infection tests in South Africa?

Prof Violet Chihota, Aurum Chief Specialist Scientist and Dr Farzana Ismail from the National Health Laboratory Services, facilitated the discussions.
Dr Matsie Mphahlele, Senior Technical Advisor, shared preliminary findings of research on screening for latent TB infection (LTBI) in healthcare workers. "The high latent TB infection prevalence rates among healthcare workers, highlights the urgent need to prioritise implementation of infection control strategies. TPT is recommended to healthcare workers," she said. The study also found that LTBI rates are high among non-clinical staff at healthcare facilities, therefore they should also be included in occupational screening programmes. 

TPT was also recommended for household contacts (HHCs) of people with active TB said Thobani Ntshiqa, Senior Research Manager. He shared experiences from the PHOENIx and CUT-TB trials in his presentation titled: Eligibility for TPT among drug-resistant and drug-sensitive TB household contacts. "TPT remains a priority for high-risk populations such as household contacts, and identifying approaches to efficiently scale up TPT is important," he said.

Dr Lindiwe Mvusi, Director: Drug Susceptible TB, TB Control and Management Cluster at the National Department of Health, updated the conference on the current policies for scaling up TPT and the state of implementation in South Africa. 
Dr Yohhei Hamada, Research Fellow at the University College London, presented on new specific skin tests for TB infection while, Dr Sanjay Lala of the Paediatrics and Child Health Unit at the University of the Witwatersrand, gave an overview of TB infection and TPT in children in South Africa.

Prof Salome Charalambous, conference organising committee member and Aurum Group Chief Scientific Officer, chaired the closing plenary. Health Minister Dr Joe Phaahla delivered the keynote address. He commended the researchers present saying; “Our scientists have done a great job as seen throughout the various tracks of the conference, now we need to ensure that the TB programme implementation is truly multisectoral as well as patient and community-centred. We should draw lessons from the country’s unity in responding to HIV and COVID-19. The same should be applied to TB,” added Phaahla.

This was echoed by Dr Lindiwe Tsope, Aurum Project Coordinator. As session rapporteur, she reflected on the key takeaways from the conference saying, there was a need to ensure shared responsibility and accountability to end TB. “We need to implement and apply a multisectoral and multifaceted plan between all stakeholders including a strong coalition with civil society. Working together means doing away with the top-down approach, but rather encompassing a rounded approach, where everyone is equally important in the discussions and implementation,” said Tsope.

It took such collaboration and concerted effort to develop evidence-based interventions to recover losses and accelerate efforts towards achieving the End TB targets, said Dr Priashni Subrayen, Aurum Technical Director: TB. She was referring to the National TB Recovery Plan and speaking in her capacity as Head of the TB Think Tank Secretariat which is currently run by Aurum. “Focusing our energy in one direction has a lot of power,” she said.

Listen to Dr Priashni Subrayen on SA FM

Aurum staff presented oral abstracts in various sessions as well as posters on the work we are doing to create a TB-free world for future generations.

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