EXPAND-TB project tripled number of MDR-TB diagnoses

The Expanding Access to New Diagnostics for TB, or EXPAND-TB, project helped triple the number of multidrug-resistant tuberculosis cases diagnosed among the 27 countries involved, according to a WHO press release.

The EXPAND-TB project is financed by UNITAID. It is a joint project between WHO, the Global Laboratory Initiative (GLI), the Foundation for Innovative New Diagnostics (FIND) and the Stop TB Partnership Global Drug Facility.

“Earlier and faster diagnosis of all forms of TB is vital,” Margaret Chan, MD, WHO’s Director-General, said in the press release. “It improves the chances of people getting the right treatment and being cured, and it helps stop spread of drug-resistant disease.”

Margaret Chan, MD 

Margaret Chan

An estimated 9 million people develop TB each year and one-third of these do not receive the care they need, according to the press release. Nearly 500,000 people acquired MDR-TB in 2012, but fewer than one in four were actually diagnosed because of limited access to appropriate diagnostics, according to the press release. But new technologies are changing this, rapidly diagnosing TB and drug-resistant TB in just 2 hours.

The EXPAND-TB project has enabled the muse of new TB diagnostic technologies in 27 low- and middle-income countries that together account for 40% of the global MDR-TB burden. More than 30% of the MDR-TB cases detected in 2012 were in these countries. From 2009 to 2013, the number of MDR-TB cases diagnosed in these countries tripled.

The project has enabled more patients to be treated with second-line TB medicines and has helped reduced the price of these medicines by one-third. Funds have also been used to purchase testing equipment and commodities and to train laboratory technicians.

“The gap in access to TB diagnostics and care is far from filled, but it is narrowing,” Mario Raviglione, MD, director of WHO’s Global TB Programme, said in the release. “With the impetus of modern laboratories, we are on the right track finally to handle MDR-TB.”