Too young for TB?

Half a million children get TB every year

A deadly disease robbing the craddle
200 children under 15 die of TB

The World Health Organisation, the International Union against tuberculosis and Lung Disease and the Stop TB partnership have launched a plan which specifically addresses TB in children and outlines a path towards zero deaths from childhood TB.

The interim executive director of the union, José Luis Castro, said: "If we can shift TB diagnosis and treatment out of specialised programmes and into other existing maternal and child health activities, we automatically gain reach and scale.

More than half a million children become ill with TB every year with 70%–80% of them having pulmonary TB and the rest are affected by the disease in other parts of the body (extra-pulmonary TB). 


Maternal and child health

Every day over 200 children under the age of 15 die worldwide from this preventable and curable disease, bringing the annual death toll to 74 000 in case of HIV-uninfected children. 

The director of the global tuberculosis programme at WHO, Dr Mario Raviglione, was quoted as saying “any child who dies from TB is one child too many. We know TB is preventable and treatable; this roadmap shifts our focus from the challenges we face to immediate actions we can take."


Diagnosis and treatment

The programme listed ten action points at international and national levels to tackle childhood TB:

*   Include the needs of children and adolescents in research, policy development and clinical practices;

*   Collect and report better data, including data on prevention;

*   Develop training and reference materials for health care workers;

*   Foster local expertise and leadership;

*   Use critical intervention strategies (like intensive case finding, contact tracing, preventive therapy, early diagnosis and uninterrupted supply of standard anti-TB medicines for children);

*   Engage key stakeholders;

*   Develop integrated family-centred and community-centred strategies;

*   Address research gaps and develop new diagnostics, medicines and vaccines;

*   Meet funding needs for childhood TB and

*   Form coalitions and partnerships to improve tools for diagnosis and treatment.


Other decisions include:

Short term by 2015:  Increased action to implement contact investigation and how to manage TB in children and advocacy for research on new diagnostics, drugs and vaccines for childhood TB.

Medium term by 2020:  Improved prevention, detection, diagnosis and management of TB in children and pregnant women and the development of new diagnostics suitable for children.

Long term by 2050:  Test for latent TB with ability to predict disease progression in children and vaccines to prevent infection and disease in children and adults.

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