World TB Day is marked every year on March 24th as a means of raising awareness and galvanising efforts to beat Tuberculosis (TB). The theme for 2018 is “Wanted: Leaders for a TB free world”.
TB is both preventable and treatable, and the world has made progress in controlling the disease; between 2000 and 2016, an estimated 53 million lives were saved through TB diagnosis and treatment, and ending the TB epidemic by 2030 is a key target of the Sustainable Development Goals.
However much more remains to be done. According to the World Health Organization, TB continues as the main infectious killer globally, claiming over 4500 lives a day and remaining one of the top ten causes of death worldwide. Most deaths from TB are in low- and middle-income countries, and TB is also a major killer of people living with HIV. Diagnosis and treatment of TB in people living with HIV is therefore a high priority.
TB during pregnancy poses particular risks to the health of the woman and her baby, including premature birth, low birthweight and death. A new mother with untreated TB can also pass the infection to their newborn. Fortunately, TB can be safely treated during pregnancy and it is therefore critical to screen, diagnose and treat pregnant women with TB to maximise the health of both mother and newborn, as well as avoid the possibility of transmission of TB to others.
With this in mind, the Centre for Maternal and Newborn Health is working in partnership with the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, TB & Malaria and selected countries for quality improvement of integrated care for the three diseases (including TB), during antenatal and postnatal care. In 2017, CMNH developed a comprehensive training package to support healthcare providers in providing integrated care, including screening, testing and treating for TB during the antenatal and postnatal period. The programme also plans to measure the morbidity experienced by pregnant women and newborns due to TB. It is hoped that successful delivery of the overall programme will help midwives and other healthcare providers deliver quality, integrated care for TB - and indeed become leaders at their health facilities for the management of TB during pregnancy.
Professor Dr Monir Islam, Senior Technical Officer at CMNH, who is responsible for overseeing this programme, says:
“Each day over 4,500 people lose their lives to TB and 30,000 people fall ill with this preventable disease. It's time to make TB history, together we can do it.”