Photo: Young MDR-TB patients in Blue House, a facility in Nairobi where MSF treats TB and HIV. Kenya 2011 © Yann Libessart
New MSF Multinational Study of Pediatric TB/HIV Co-Infection Confirms Crisis of Undiagnosed TB Among Children
Data from the largest-ever multinational cohort of children infected with both tuberculosis (TB) and HIV, released by MSF, definitively shows that there is an urgent need for better TB tests for children. The standard TB test fails to detect the disease in children 93% of the time.
“When you’re only detecting TB in one out of ten children, you can be sure that many are falling through the cracks simply because they’re not being diagnosed, resulting in unnecessary deaths and the disease spreading to others,” said Dr. Philipp du Cros, head of MSF’s medical department in London. “Most revealing of this sad reality is that until just last month, there was little data on the global burden of pediatric TB.”
One of the main barriers to developing a TB test that works in children has been the lack of a gold standard to assess performance of new diagnostic tools. In a process led by the US National Institutes of Health (NIH), a consensus on clinical case definition and methodological approaches to apply in the evaluation of new TB diagnostic tests in children was developed. This consensus should open the way for academic groups and test developers to work towards better TB tests for kids.
“What we need to see now is test developers showing that children are a priority, and that will mean developing tests that respond to their needs,” said Dr. Grania Brigden, TB Advisor for MSF’s Access Campaign. “We need to move away from having to put children through excruciating procedures to get lab specimens that in the end don’t provide us with a diagnosis.”