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TB diagnosis to become easier

Diagnosis of tuberculosis in the country is expected to be more reliable and faster with GeneXpert machine.

With the installation of two additional GeneXpert machine soon, Bhutan will have a total of eight GeneXpert machine.

GeneXpert machine is diagnostic equipment to find out if a person is infected with tuberculosis (TB) and also if the TB bacterium of the person has resistance to one of the common TB drugs.

A three-day training on GeneXpert Machine Operation and Maintenance is underway in Thimphu to equip laboratory staffs in operating the machine and performing Xpert MTB/RIF Assay.

About 22 participants including medical technologist and technicians and GeneXpert technicians from the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) member countries are attending the training which began yesterday.

Senior Programme Officer with the National TB Control Programme, Ugyen Dendup said that the three referral hospitals have a machine each and the six GeneXpert machines in the country are installed at high TB burden districts. The three referral hospitals and hospitals in Samdrupjongkhar, Samtse and Phuentsholing have one GeneXpert machine each.

He said that the two additional machines would be installed in the hospitals in dzongkhags where high TB cases are reported.

“The training was relevant and timely for Bhutan,” he said. “It would enhance our capacity for early diagnosis, reduce the risk of poor treatment outcomes and TB transmission in the community.”

A microbiologist with the National Institute of TB and Respiratory Diseases in New Delhi in India, Dr Vithal Prasad Myneedu, said that GeneXpert is a rapid test which could help TB control programmes across the countries.

He said that diagnostic methodologies like smear microscopy, cultural TB organisms and testing the organisms for resistance of sensitive for anti-TB drugs take about three months.

GeneXpert test can give the result within two hours, thereby reducing the waiting period.

“The earlier it is diagnosed, the earlier it can be treated. This could break the chain of transmission and control the disease,” he said. “The goal set by the WHO can be achieved if these services are expended to the remotes of the countries.”

In 2016, the SAARC TB and HIV/AIDS Centre (STAC) in Kathmandu in Nepal has carried out a study on challenges in the diagnosis of TB and MDR-TB (multidrug-resistance TB) by GeneXpert in Bangladesh and Nepal that showed the most common problem laboratory personnel encounter during performing the test was module failure, followed by a delay in maintenance support.

Therefore, STAC initiated to train laboratory personnel in the SAARC member states on GeneXpert from 2019.

Dechen Tshomo

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