By Mike Ssegawa
Arusha. With free movement of people in the East African region, also comes the burden of free movement of diseases. Among the dangerous things that comes with free movements is the mobility of diseases.
A research project to control and manage tuberculosis in the fast consolidating region of East Africa was launched in Arusha, the northern city of Tanzania, and the capital of East African Community.
The regional push to stop TB attracted medical researchers, policy makers and practitioners meeting at the Nelson Mandela African Institution of Science and Technology in Arusha to deliberate on the challenges the EA countries faced in diagnosing and treating TB.
Dr Nyanda Elias Ntinginya, the Principal investigator for TWENDE in Tanzania said at the press conference earlier on Friday morning while underscoring the need to fight TB at regional level that, “TB knows no borders”.
Uganda, Kenya and Tanzania are among the 22 TB high burden countries in the world. Doctors managing TB in their various countries gave the media more than 250,000 cases of tuberculosis reported in the region of three countries.
The project codenamed Tuberculosis: Working To Empower Nations Diagnostic Efforts (TWENDE), was launched and it aims at coming up with the regional roadmap to facilitate the eradication of TB within the World Health organization target of 2050.
Dr Evans Amukoye of KMRI said Kenya reports about 120,000 new TB cases every year. Dr Alphonse Okwera who heads Uganda’s TB unit at Mulago Hospital says 50,000 cases are reported in Uganda while Dr Nyanda says 68,000 cases are reported in Tanzania.
Dr Okwera highlighted the bad alliance between HIV, AIDS and TB, as a deadly combination for victims.
“You cannot deal with TB effectively without dealing with HIV,” added Dr Wilber Sabiiti, the lead researcher for TWENDE.
“When we bring together our expertise, we can translate our research into policy and practice,” said Dr Nyanda Elias Ntinginya, the Principal investigator for TWENDE in Tanzania while underscoring the need to fight TB at regional level.
“TB knows no borders”, Dr Nyanda said at the press conference earlier on Friday morning.
Participants called upon governments of East Africa to pay attention to poverty as it was one of the driving factors in the spread of TB.
“TB is a disease of poverty, overcrowding and malnutrition,” said Dr Ewan Chirnside from the University of St Andrews in U.K. which is the lead institution in the TWENDE consortium.
Prof Christopher Garimoi Orach from Makerere University added that poverty leads to TB through malnutrition and lack of access to medical care due to financial difficulties. He called upon governments to invest in communities that are prone to TB by offering them social security.
TWENDE will be focusing on innovations in diagnostics as a way of preventing TB, early detection and treatment.
The project will be working with researchers at Kenya Medical Research Institute, Kilimanjaro Clinical Research Institute, Tanzania National Institute of Medical Research, Makerere University and CPAR Uganda Ltd.