UNACCEPTABLE: Ten years since the introduction of a TB rapid molecular test – but still only one in seven people in need of a rapid test have access
Geneva, Switzerland, 11 December 2020 - Only one in seven people in need of being tested for tuberculosis (TB) receive a rapid diagnostic test despite the fact that the first rapid molecular test for TB has now been in existence for a decade. As the GeneXpert test marks its 10th anniversary this week, the Stop TB Partnership calls for an emergency expansion of the use of rapid molecular diagnostics to ensure the speedy and efficient diagnosis of TB for all those that need it.
To diagnose all those suffering from the disease, TB programs need to perform at least 100 million rapid molecular diagnostic tests annually. However, in 2019 no more than 15% of this figure was reached. By comparison, over one billion COVID-19 tests have been performed in less than a year in the world using tests developed in 2020.
“More than ten years have passed since the GeneXpert test was introduced, but most people with TB are still unable to access this test. This is completely unacceptable, and as a result, we have seen an increase in the number of people infected with TB who are diagnosed clinically or by using the smear microscopy test. As a result, there is continued transmission and mortality from TB, despite having a cure for the disease. It is utterly shocking that we keep on using a hundred-year-old microscopy method or clinical skills alone to diagnose TB. I urge the international community to step up and increase investments in rapid molecular diagnostics for TB if we are to achieve the UN High-Level Meeting commitments by 2022 and be on track to end TB by 2030,” said Dr. Lucica Ditiu, Executive Director of Stop TB Partnership. “We managed in record time to find effective tests and vaccines for COVID-19 and to perform over a billion tests. Let’s apply the same speed and dedication to eliminate this deadly disease once and for all.”
The GeneXpert rapid automated molecular TB diagnostic test was recommended by the World Health Organization (WHO) for use in December 2010. Currently, ten years since the introduction, there is only one additional such rapid molecular test in existence for TB and rifampicin resistance that has been approved by the WHO. Many countries still rely on sputum smear microscopy to test for TB – a diagnostic method developed over a century ago, which is known to be inaccurate as it misses 40% of people with TB and is unable to detect drug-resistant TB.
Source: Stop TB Partnership