OPEN LETTER | Minister of Health Joe Phaahla, make TB a political priority

In this open letter to Minister of Health Dr Joe Phaahla, TB activists call for the disease to be made a political priority and demand multisectoral departmental accountability. They outline six demands for implementation by the end of this year. The letter was submitted on the final day of the South African TB Conference being held this week in Durban.

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Slow progress after decision to make TB prevention pills more widely available

Besides preventing illness and death, tuberculosis prevention therapy is estimated to be highly cost effective. Yet, uptake of the medication is not what it could be in South Africa. Tiyese Jeranji asks how much has changed since the Department of Health last year decided to make TB prevention therapy much more widely available.

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New TB drug shows promise, but experimental vaccine disappoints

While three new tuberculosis (TB) medicines have been registered in South Africa over the last decade, TB treatment still comes with several side effects and requires taking multiple different medicines, typically for six or more months. The search for better TB medicines got a boost last week with the presentation of promising findings from a study conducted in South Africa on an experimental drug called quabodepistat. Elri Voigt reports on this and other TB studies presented at the Conference on Retroviruses and Opportunistic Infections (CROI) in Denver, Colorado.

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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.

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Interview: “Someone had to do it”, says SA TB activist on Time 100 list

At the age of 19 Phumeza Tisile contracted multidrug-resistant tuberculosis. For four years she battled the disease, losing her hearing in the process. At one stage, a doctor told her to visit a priest and prepare her soul for death. Recently, Tisile (now 33) made it on to TIME magazine’s 2023 TIME100 Next list, as one of 100 emerging leaders round the world who are “shaping the future and defining the next generation of leadership”. Sue Segar chatted to Tisile about her remarkable journey.

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In-depth: SA’s remarkable TB clinical trial capacity

Several of the world’s most important tuberculosis clinical trials of the last two decades were done in part or entirely in South Africa. Tiyese Jeranji chatted to some leading researchers about where the country’s clinical trial capacity comes from and what is needed to maintain and improve it.

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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.

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