First national TB prevalence survey enters second leg

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South Africa’s first National Tuberculosis (TB) Prevalence Survey has entered its second leg as fieldworkers visit households around the Eastern Cape to invite eligible community members to participate in a study that aims to determine the prevalence of TB disease in South Africa.

The survey, commissioned by the National Department of Health and undertaken by the South African Medical Research Council (SAMRC), Human Sciences Research Council (HSRC) and the National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD), has reached a 90% participation rate despite the challenging geographical terrain in some rural pockets of the Eastern Cape province.

“This survey is the first of its kind in the country and people in the Eastern Cape are eager to participate and play their part in reflecting the true burden of tuberculosis in their province,” says co-principal investigator of the survey, Professor Martie van der Walt. “We will be targeting all nine provinces in the country and look forward to participation in the Eastern Cape similar to the high participation rates from KwaZulu-Natal in March 2018.”

With technical support provided by the World Health Organisation (WHO), the survey will draw an estimated 55,000 participants from 110 clusters across the country and will use the latest GeneXpert technology, which is highly sensitive and specific for diagnosing TB.

Dr Nazir Ismail, head of the Centre for Tuberculosis at the NICD explains that the new Ultra cartridge of the GeneXpert molecular assay is exciting as it could diagnose even the lowest bacterial load. This improved sensitivity for diagnosing TB will lead to a more accurate reflection of TB prevalence in the country.

The survey will also provide information on how people with TB seek care in South Africa. “The survey follows scientifically valid methodologies that have been used globally to determine stigma and other behavioural factors, which impacts on how people seek care,” says HSRC principal investigator, Dr Sizulu Moyo. This information will be used by government to change policies and processes in provision of TB services that are more patient-centred.

The survey targets participants who are 15 years and older in the selected areas, its results are expected to be announced in 2019.

The HSRC fieldworkers, clearly identifiable through survey attire and identification logos, are visiting randomly selected households to invite community members to participate. Participation is completely voluntary and the information and confidentiality of each participant is carefully protected.

SA Medical Research Council material

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