With a single cough or sneeze, bacteria that carry tuberculosis (TB) are released into the air and start spreading the potentially life-threatening infection. Although curable, active TB creates symptoms that prompt a hospital visit, such as chronic cough, weight loss, and sputum (thick mucus coughed up from the respiratory tract).
In contrast, latent infections of TB leave little to no symptoms at all, but if a person’s immune system weakens, what was once latent TB could easily become active. And if hospitals have limited resources to provide reliable diagnoses, TB can become a widespread public health crisis.
In September 2016, the United Nations General Assembly convened a high-level meeting to address the growing threat of anti-microbial resistance — diseases that are resistant to antibiotics. Anti-microbial drugs like antibiotics are designed to treat infections such as TB, but resistance makes such treatments ineffective. More than 700,000 people die each year from anti-microbial resistance, and of that 200,000 are from multi-drug resistant TB (MDR-TB). In the Odesa Oblast (region) of Ukraine, the rate of MDR-TB is especially alarming.
With 674 new cases of MDR-TB detected in the Odesa Oblast in 2014 alone, MDR-TB has quickly become an epidemic. For high-risk groups such as people living with HIV, a weak immune system makes TB harder to diagnose, faster to spread, and more likely to return after being treated. With the growing challenge of MDR-TB and TB/HIV co-infection, local health care providers in the Odesa Oblast need the resources to reliably and rapidly diagnose TB.