New successes in tackling TB in Turkmenistan
The past 20 years have seen an increase in the spread of drug-resistant tuberculosis (DR-TB) throughout Central Asia.
This strain of TB cannot be cured by basic antibiotics: it needs to be treated with ‘second line’ drugs. It also needs to be detected at an early stage through drug susceptibility testing (DST) by trained staff with equipment.
Timely diagnosis and treatment with ‘second line’ drugs can make all the difference when it comes to responding and curing TB. Until very recently, however, the facilities needed to test for DR-TB were extremely limited in this region. In Turkmenistan, such facilities were only available in the capital at the National Reference TB Laboratory in Ashgabat.
- This US $16.5 million project has managed to bring about a steady decline in rates of TB infection in Turkmenistan since 2013.
- Coverage with drug susceptibility testing increased from 27% in 2011 to 44% in 2014.
- Rapid molecular detection of MDR-TB is available in Ashgabat and all regions of the country.
- DST coverage of throughout the country is set to reach 72 percent of the population. Prior to the project interventions, only 27 percent of the population was covered.
“Without the necessary equipment and laboratories for drug susceptibility testing,” explains UNDP’s TB Project Manager Rustam Alymov, “sufferers of drug-resistant tuberculosis are typically given antibiotics that only serve to exacerbate the problem. This treatment not only fails to cure the disease but, leads to further transmission in the population. Over time this leads to the development of more resistant bacteria and the emergence of completely incurable forms of TB.”
To end this vicious cycle, UNDP - supported the Ministry of Health and Medical Industry – launched a major regional initiative in 2013 for supported interventions, comprehensively upgrading two TB laboratories in the two most populated regions of Turkmenistan, Mary and Lebap.
These upgrades included the renovation of facilities and technical equipment as well as the installation of special ventilation systems to prevent laboratory staff from being exposed to contagion. Staff was also trained in applying the most up-to-date testing methods.
Before the intervention, it was hard for people in this country to obtain an accurate diagnosis and get the treatment they needed on time. It was especially difficult for people living in remote areas. Now the citizens of Mary and Lebap can get an accurate test results within just a few hours, and begin with the appropriate treatment on the same day.
Building on this success, UNDP is now upgrading a third TB laboratory in Dashoguz. Expected to be finished this year, DST coverage of the population throughout the country is set to reach 72 percent. Supported by the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, TB and Malaria, this US $16.5 million project has managed to bring about a steady decline in rates of TB infection in Turkmenistan since 2013 and a significant increase in successful treatment of DR-TB.