TAC and partners call for rapid introduction of new TB test

The Treatment Action Campaign (TAC) and partner organisations today wrote to South Africa’s Minister of Health Dr Aaron Motsoaledi urging the rapid introduction of a new tuberculosis (TB) test in hospitals in South Africa. The letter can be read here.

TB is particularly difficult to diagnose in people living with HIV who have low immunity or who are seriously ill. This group of people are also at particularly high risk of TB. The Lipoarabinomannan, or LAM test, works by detecting TB antigens associated with TB in a patient’s urine. The test is easy to implement and results are available in 25 minutes. At approximately R40 a test it is also affordable.

Our letter follows the publication of findings in the medical journal the Lancet from a study that showed that use of the LAM test can reduce mortality in hospitalised people living with HIV who have low CD4 counts or who are seriously ill. The study is available here. 

Over 2,000 study participants were randomly assigned to receive either normal TB testing or the normal tests plus the LAM test. After eight weeks 21% of the people in the LAM group had died compared to 25% of the people in the control group. This amounts to a relative risk reduction of 17%.

The World Health Organization (WHO) already recommends the use of the LAM test as a preliminary test for TB in people living with HIV who have CD4 counts below 100 cells/mm3 or who are seriously ill. Making the test available in South African hospitals will require healthcare workers to be trained on the LAM test and the development of guidelines for its use. We urge the Minister to start this process as soon as possible.

The letter was signed by TAC, TB Proof, Treatment Action Group, the Global TB Community Advisory Board, SECTION27, Delhi Network of Positive People, International Treatment Preparedness Coalition South Asia, Nagaland Users Network and the Swift Response Project.
For more information contact Marcus Low on 082 962 8309
- GroundUp News has published an informative article about our letter and the LAM test.