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Sunday, February 5th, 2023

WHO to unveil latest evidence, tech and practices for screening those at risk of tuberculosis

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The World Health Organization (WHO) announced plans this week to release guidance on the systematic screening of tuberculosis (TB), including an updated means of addressing the disease through new approaches, new technologies, and the latest evidence.

“Systematic screening is critical to ensure we can detect TB early in the people who need it, while also identifying people who could benefit from TB preventive treatment,” Dr. Tereza Kasaeva, Director of WHO’s Global TB Programme, said. “This is important to break the chain of transmission and to ensure no one is left behind. We need to maximize upon the synergies between the delivery of TB and COVID services during contact investigation and other situations, especially at these times of crisis when the demand on healthcare services is high.”

While the new guidelines are not expected to be released until early 2021, the new Rapid Communication made clear several updates. These include items like showing that communitywide systematic screening using a tool like a chest X-ray followed by an accurate diagnostic test may be used in settings with TB prevalence even lower than 1 percent, that screening with chest X-rays improve the sensitivity of the WHO four-symptom screen for detecting TB among those who also have HIV and that mWRDs can be used to improve the accuracy of symptom screening for TV patients in high-risk populations.

The update is meant to help national TB programs, public and private healthcare providers, funders, and other stakeholders to prepare for changes the new guidelines will bring. Such changes are necessary, the WHO stresses, to rapidly reach a global target of treating at least 40 million TB patients by 2022.

WHO estimates that nearly 3 million people with TB go undiagnosed or unreported each year. Improved TB screening through the measures laid out in the new guidance could help reach more people and reduce the number of people slipping under the radar.