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New Methods and Technologies in the Study of Tuberculosis


Svetlana Tomasova, UNDP/GF TB Specialist

Svetlana Tomasova, laboratory specialist of the UNDP TB project funded by the Global Fund


UNDP: What is the annual conference of the International Union Against Tuberculosis and Lung Disease?

Ms. Tomasova: The annual conference of the International Union Against Tuberculosis and Lung Disease is the world's largest gathering of doctors, health program managers, researchers and activists working to end the suffering caused by lung diseases, especially tuberculosis. The first international conference on tuberculosis was held in Paris in 1920.


UNDP: How did the conference take place in 2017? 

Ms. Tomasova: This year the conference was held between 11/14 October 2017 in the city of Guadalajara, Mexico. The World Conference of the Union attracted delegates from more than 125 countries. The conference discussed issues of biosafety, new schemes and treatment regimes, patient support, the introduction of new laboratory methods for diagnosing tuberculosis, and much more.

I would like to note that at the conference in 2017 the Global Drug Facility, which supplies drugs for the treatment of tuberculosis, awarded Turkmenistan for leadership in the planning of procurement of anti-tuberculosis drugs. UNDP is preparing a separate press release about this.


UNDP: What innovations in the diagnosis of tuberculosis were presented?

Ms. Tomasova: Let me focus on three innovations presented at the conference.

New cartridges for molecular diagnostics devices were presented - GeneXpert. Such devices are in Turkmenistan in the Directorate of Centers for Infectious Diseases and all velayat anti-tuberculosis laboratories. This is the most modern, accurate and fast means of diagnosing tuberculosis. New Ultra cartridges will shorten the time of diagnosis from 110 min to 80 min. If you need 114 mycobacteria in one milliliter of sputum for detecting the tuberculosis bacterium with conventional GeneXpert cartridges, then only 16 Mycobacteria are sufficient with Ultra cartridges. Because of the increased sensitivity of Ultra, the analysis will reveal tuberculosis in patients with difficult-to-identify forms, as well as in children.

In addition, the GeneXpert Omni system is tested, which allows the use of special GeneXpert mobile devices via a Bluetooth connection. You can conduct analyzes in the field, for example, in the most remote places. Advantages - small size, mobility, low power consumption, built-in battery. Test results are downloaded to a secure database from a mobile device and can be accessed through another device.

The third innovation presented at the conference concerns the improvement of the transportation of sputum. In all countries there are problems with the delivery of phlegm patients to the laboratory. In countries with a hot climate like ours, it is necessary to ensure a cold regime during the delivery of phlegm, otherwise tuberculosis bacteria die, and there may be a mistake in the diagnosis. All our clinics are provided with refrigerator bags. But now there are innovations in this area. For example, reagents are created that are added to the sputum and canned. One of these reagents, OMNIgene®, was presented at the conference. It significantly simplifies the collection and transportation of sputum, and allows you to maintain the survival rate of bacteria up to 8 days at ambient temperatures of even 40 degrees.

All these innovations presented at the conference are still being tested, and it is too early to talk about their wide application in practice.


UNDP: What new methods of research are being introduced into the diagnosis of the disease in Turkmenistan?

Ms. Tomasova: At present, thanks to the efforts of our Government, Turkmenistan is carrying out the most modern laboratory diagnostic methods recommended by the World Health Organization. All these methods are available not only in Ashgabat, but also in the velayats. In addition to the GeneXpert method, four laboratories perform molecular genetic testing using the HAIN method, as well as automated studies on the BACTEC MGIT 960 apparatus, which can determine the sensitivity to first-line and second-line antituberculosis drugs. The diagnosis of tuberculosis is made within one day. The centralized laboratory of the Centers for Infectious Diseases in Ashgabat undergoes annual quality control from the Supra-National Laboratory, which is in Germany.

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