Health in 2023: A deceptively busy year in fewer than 1 000 words

2023 was a busy year for healthcare in South Africa. We saw several promising policy developments, landmark court cases, important pieces of legislation, and some changes in leadership. Yet, take a step back and at facility level little seems to have changed. Shortages of healthcare workers persist, corruption is still rife, budgets tight, and our health governance crisis remains as acute as ever. Marcus Low looks back at the year in health in fewer than 1 000 words.

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What next after shortened TB treatment fails in key trial?

The current treatment for drug-susceptible tuberculosis (TB) used in South Africa last for six months, effectively cures TB and is dirt cheap. Two studies in recent years have shown that TB can be cured in four or in some cases even two months, but price and other complications make these treatments tricky to implement. At a conference in Seattle last week, a major trial of an alternative four-month treatment reported disappointing findings. Elri Voigt unpacks the latest findings and asks what the prospects now are for shortening TB treatment.

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In-depth: New resistance tests set to improve TB treatment

Tuberculosis (TB) can be resistant to treatment with several different drugs. Tests that identify which drugs someone’s TB is resistant to are critical to ensuring that people are not treated with drugs that don’t work for them, especially given the significant side effects associated with some of the drugs. Elri Voigt assesses the state of play in testing for TB drug resistance and the promise of exciting new technologies, such as whole genome sequencing.

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Women in Health: Francesca Conradie – from HIV to groundbreaking TB research

Dr Francesca Conradie knew she wanted to be a doctor when she was eight years old. Now, 50 years later, she is a pioneer in the field of tuberculosis (TB) and led a landmark trial that changed how drug-resistant TB is treated. Aisha Abdool Karim spoke to her about the reasons behind her switch from HIV research to TB, her initial surprise at the remarkable NiX trial results, and the man who has shaped her life – her father.

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Important TB drug as effective at lower dose, study finds

The treatment of drug-resistant forms of tuberculosis has been transformed over the last decade with treatment becoming more effective, safer, and treatment duration in many cases dropping to under a year. Even so, treatment can still come with serious side effects and for some, it can still last over a year and a half. In a finding that may help further reduce side effects, new research has found that the dosage of a key drug can be lowered without compromising how well it works. Tiyese Jeranji and Marcus Low report.

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400 people in SA with highly drug-resistant TB to get new three-drug regimen

Treating highly drug-resistant forms of tuberculosis can take anything from nine to 24 months and patients have to contend with various unpleasant, and sometimes dangerous, side effects. A new six-month regimen made up of just three drugs that will be offered to 400 patients in South Africa might offer a better solution for some. Tiyese Jeranji reports.

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What is behind SA’s higher TB numbers?

A World Health Organization report published last week showed more people are falling ill with tuberculosis in South Africa than previously thought – but also that the country’s treatment success rate for dangerous drug-resistant forms of the disease have improved. Amy Green asks what’s behind these numbers.

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