U.S. donates 86,500 “GeneXpert Ultra” diagnostic equipment to Nigeria’s Tuberculosis Control Program

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By Joy Odor

In the closing days of 2020, the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) provided critical commodities to Nigeria’s National Tuberculosis (TB) and Leprosy Control Program for the testing and diagnosis of more than 10,000 patients suspected of having the disease.

The donation of 86,500 “GeneXpert Ultra” cartridges will help Nigerian health workers to optimize the use of molecular diagnosis tools that can detect both drug-sensitive and drug-resistant forms of TB, and improve detection of TB in people living with HIV/AIDS.

The Ultra cartridge has significantly increased sensitivity of the GeneXpert machine compared to standard cartridges, especially in patients who show low numbers of bacteria, such as those with HIV co-infection and in children.

“Nigeria has the highest estimated burden of TB in all of Africa,” USAID Mission Director Anne E. Patterson noted after the donation. “With these cartridges, officials tasked with reducing its burden in Nigeria can identify some of the most problematic strains of the TB bacteria.”

Since 2015, USAID has donated more than 150 GeneXpert machines to hospitals in Nigeria. The GeneXpert testing platform improves upon slow and less sensitive conventional diagnostic methods, particularly for HIV-positive patients who are extremely vulnerable to TB. Cutting the period of diagnosis from weeks to a matter of hours represents a significant breakthrough in TB diagnosis and supports earlier treatment and better patient outcomes.

TB can be spread from person to person through the air when a person with active TB infection coughs, sneezes, speaks, or sings. Symptoms include coughing up blood and chest pain, as well as weight loss, night sweats, fever, chills, and fatigue. Early detection and treatment of TB will stop transmission of infection and move the country closer to ending the TB epidemic.

USAID has partnered since 2003 with the federal and state ministries of health in Nigeria to build the capacity of healthcare providers, expand TB care and treatment services in the public and private sector, link patients to health services, and roll out new treatment options for multi-drug resistant TB.

In 2020, USAID evaluated more than one million patients for TB, of which almost 80,000 were diagnosed with TB and started on treatment, including 1,000 cases of the multidrug-resistant strain of the disease.

Since 2003, USAID has established 1,700 TB clinics and 700 microscopy laboratories across 18 states to improve diagnosis and treatment. It also helps develop new approaches to engage the private sector in TB control

USAID works with Nigeria on TB control under a new business model after entering a 2019 partnership with the Federal Ministry of Health to reinforce two countries’ commitment to meet the United Nations’ TB targets for Nigeria.

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