Antibiotic slashes risk of drug-resistant TB in kids, finds major SA study

Tuberculosis (TB) preventive therapy has been transformed in recent years, with treatment duration having been cut from six or more months to just three or one. Progress in developing new treatments to prevent drug-resistant forms of TB has however lagged behind, especially in children. Elri Voigt unpacks findings from a major new TB prevention study presented at the Union World Conference on Lung Health last week and plans for another important preventive therapy trial set to start soon.

Read More

Interview: “The situation is not going away,” says inspiring TB doctor

Dr Juli Switala (42) has treated children in Nigeria, helped fatally ill patients during the 2014 Ebola outbreak in Sierra Leone, and delivered babies at a hospital in Afghanistan against a backdrop of upheaval and violence. But nowhere cuts close to her heart quite like Brooklyn Chest – the tuberculosis (TB) hospital on Cape Town’s north-western fringes. Biénne Huisman chatted with Switala about her work in hospitals around the world, the challenges of treating kids with TB, and going for a run to get away from it all.

Read More

Analysis: How does SA measure up against new TB recommendations?

A new report from the Lancet Commission on Tuberculosis (TB) titled ‘Scientific advances and the end of tuberculosis’ makes several recommendations for how governments should go about fighting the deadly, but curable, disease. Spotlight editor Marcus Low puts the Spotlight on how South Africa’s TB programme is measuring up against the recommendations.

Read More

Growing the beta variant – young scientist remembers the day they danced in the lab

During South Africa’s COVID-19 hard lockdown, rising star scientist Dr Sandile Cele spent his Christmas holidays in a laboratory. Soon the 35-year-old became the first to successfully grow the beta variant of SARS-CoV-2 in the lab. Biénne Huisman spoke to Cele about how he did this, the string of accolades he received since, and his leap from a modest upbringing to the global scientific stage.

Read More

In-depth: How big a problem is TB in SA’s schools?

While there is limited data on tuberculosis (TB) in South Africa’s schools, a growing body of evidence suggests that there is indeed significant TB transmission taking place in the country’s often over-crowded classrooms. Tiyese Jeranji spoke to several local experts about what we do and do not know about the impact this age-old disease is having on our learners and their households.

Read More

New policies aim to integrate mental health support into HIV services

Research suggests that people living with HIV are more likely to have mental health conditions than the general population. There seems to be consensus that HIV programmes would benefit from including better mental health screening and support services. Two new policy documents – the Mental Health Policy Framework and the National Strategic Plan for HIV, TB, and STIs – have a lot to say about providing such integrated services, but will they result in actual changes on the ground? Thabo Molelekwa reports.

Read More

Face to face: Prof Muki Shey on his journey from Cameroon to doing cutting-edge TB research

On 9 March, Professor Muki Shey received a silver award from the South African Medical Research Council for his “outstanding contribution to health research”. Shey is spearheading research into TB in healthcare workers from around Cape Town, scanning for those who over at least five years of high exposure to the disease at hospitals or clinics have never been infected. Biénne Huisman spoke to him about his journey from the North West of Cameroon to a lab at UCT and the value of ploughing back to help develop the next generation.

Read More

In-depth: Good sexual and reproductive health services on paper, but implementation gaps remain

Though South Africa has in some respects done well in the provision of sexual and reproductive health services for adolescent girls and young women, significant gaps remain. Tiyese Jeranji takes an in-depth look at the current policy landscape and asks how well the implementation of the policies measures up to their lofty ambitions.

Read More

Digital X-rays boosting TB diagnosis, assessment finds

Many people with tuberculosis (TB) in South Africa are never diagnosed or are diagnosed only once their symptoms have become quite severe. One solution to diagnosing more people more quickly is the expanded use of new digital X-ray technology. Now, an independent assessment of digital X-ray pilot projects in six districts in South Africa sheds light on how well this intervention works in the real world. Tiyese Jeranji reports.

Read More

Smart pill box can help with TB treatment, but it’s not for everyone

Tuberculosis (TB) can be cured, but completing TB treatment can sometimes be difficult. Treatment takes a minimum of six months and some of the medicines have side effects – especially those used to treat drug-resistant forms of TB. Tiyese Jeranji asks what role smart pill boxes could play in helping people complete TB treatment.

Read More