More than 40,000 South African prisoners have been screened for multidrug-resistant tuberculosis (MDR-TB) this year as government attempts to tackle TB in correctional facilities, reports Health-e. About 8% of all MDR-TB tests conducted among prisoners tested positive for the form of TB, which is resistant to both of the most commonly used anti-TB drugs.
New data represents a 20-fold increase in the number of inmates tested for MDR-TB since 2011, when the country began introducing rapid TB testing via GeneXpert machines. These machines are capable of returning TB test results in just hours in contrast to convention testing that can takes days.
At least seven of these machines are now located in prisons, according to data released last year by the National Health Laboratory Services at the SA TB Conference in Durban. This follows the introduction of the machines into Pollsmoor Maximum Security Prison by the Department of Health two years ago today
Nationally, the GeneXpert roll out has led to an 85% increase in the number of MDR-TB cases diagnosed, according to clinical advisor for TB for the non-profit Right to Care, Dr Francesca Conradie. “We are seeing an increase from 5,400 to 6,700 (cases diagnosed a year) to over 10,000 in three years,” said Conradie, who added that many doctors are able to more confidently diagnose the condition, which requires about two years of treatmentFull Health-e report