World Tuberculosis (TB) Day 2022

This World TB Day, APOPO renews its commitment to work harder and save more lives but challenges its supporters and the public at large to invest in TB activities especially in high burden countries like Tanzania, Mozambique, and Ethiopia. If we want to see a world free of TB by 2030, more needs to be done!

Over the past few years, the world has descended into chaos with the arrival of a new global pandemic – COVID-19. This fast moving highly infectious disease caused havoc, affecting people everywhere very quickly and bringing socio-economic activities almost to a complete halt. APOPO researches rapid testing using TB-detection rats: one rat can screen 100 samples in just 20 minutes. APOPO uses the rats to re-evaluating human sputum samples delivered from partner clinics. A sample indicated as positive by a rat undergoes confirmation testing with internationally approved tests before the result is returned to the clinic. In this way APOPO finds additionl patients for partner clinics.

The COVID-19 response disrupted health services as resources were diverted to deal with the new pandemic (lab capacity, workforce, and budgets). Essential TB services have been impacted as they faced a shortage of medical consumables and equipment due to workers being enforced to stay at home which in turn hiked prices preventing access to essential medical supplies for vulnerable groups. Patients with signs and symptoms face barriers in accessing health care because of new conflict movement restrictions, fear of contagion, and stigma. The economic impact of COVID-19 might have already reduced household incomes, worsening the problem of undernutrition. This makes people even more vulnerable to TB.

 Dr. Joyce listens to the lungs of recovering patient on routine visit. in Tanzania.

Yet we must not forget, TB is a preventable and curable disease. COVID-19 has caused about 6 million deaths whereas TB caused 1.5 million deaths in 2020 alone. Had TB received even half of the attention and commitments from world leaders and global funders that were provided to this new pandemic, we could have been on targetfor a world free of TB by 2030.  APOPO’s TB Detection research promotes the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals:

APOPO provides fast diagnostic services by integrating TB detection rats, and together with community-based partners improve the health and well-being of impacted communities. Both, APOPO’s TB-detection research and services are geared towards contributing to ending the epidemic of tuberculosis by 2030 (SDG 3.3.). 

Despite the global challenges and impact of COVID-19, and thanks to our supporters, partners and staff, APOPO maintains it’s activities in the fight against TB through its operational research programs in Tanzania, Mozambique, and Ethiopia. In 2021 sputum samples from about 51,900 patients were re-evaluated using our unique integrated approach.

This is an 18% decline in samples checked compared to 2019 (pre-Covid). However, the increase in case detection for partner clinics remained the same at 47%. This surpasses the number of additional cases found by APOPO in 2019. APOPO focused on supporting our partners and the communities we serve, to combat both infectious diseases at the same time. APOPO supports COVID-19 prevention activities by assisting in sample collection in Ethiopia and is investigating the economical use of resources for COVID-19 detection in Mozambique.

APOPO thanks the health authorities  and funding partners across the countries in which it works for their continued support.