USAID TB Program South Africa hosted a National TB Diagnostic Summit in Pretoria on November 18 – 19, 2013, bringing together key stakeholders to discuss the role of TB diagnostics in achieving the Stop TB Partnership goal of zero TB deaths.
A high-quality laboratory system employing modern diagnostic techniques is critical to early, rapid, and accurate detection and treatment of TB. While South Africa has been at the forefront of countries of replacing traditional smear microscopy with rapid Xprt MTB/RIF (GeneXpert) testing for all patients presenting with TB symptoms, continued evaluation and improvement is needed.
“There has not been a formal platform to review the introduction of these tests, development of diagnostic algorithms, lessons learned and how best to improve diagnostics or inform policy changes in the country hence we need this forum to harness efforts and work in partnership,” said South African Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi, who chairs the Stop TB Partnership Coordinating Board.
South Africa is one of 12 countries identified by WHO has having a high burden of both TB and MDR-TB. With approximately 500,000 incident cases of TB per year, South Africa has the third largest TB epidemic in the world, after India and China.
“These statistics stress the need for strengthening laboratory capacity, quality assurance measures and linkages between the laboratory and clinical components of the National TB Control Programme to ensure early diagnosis and treatment of the majority of these estimated cases,” Motsoaledi said.