Diagnosing Tuberculosis in Developing Countries

Nov. 1, 2023

At ASM Microbe 2023, Young Ambassador to Mozambique, Aureliana Chambal Chilengue, discusses barriers to accurate and timely TB detection in developing countries.

Video Notes

Imagine waking up one day, struggling to catch your breath, feeling completely exhausted, weak and sometimes coughing. But for many reasons, you are unable to access the diagnosis that could save your life. This is the reality faced by millions worldwide who are affected by tuberculosis, specifically in low resource settings. 

Tuberculosis, also referred to as TB, is not a relic of the past. It is a global public health problem that silently claims millions of precious lives worldwide. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), M. tuberculosis, the causative agent of TB, is responsible for approximately 10 million TB cases and 1.5 million deaths annually. 

Mozambique, has a population of 31.3 million people, and the case rate is high. It is approximately 361 per 100,000 people in the population, which is equivalent to over 111,000 people being infected by M. tuberculosis

The more vulnerable population are those with weakened immune systems, such as those with HIV, malnutrition, diabetes and also those who live in in overcrowded areas, such as prisons. 

What are the barriers that prevent the accurate and timely detection?  

  1. ​​​​​Misperception and stigma about TB.
  2. Limited access to the diagnostic tools and technologies.
  3. Resistance to drugs used to treat TB, including fluoroquinolones. 

What can we do to bridge the diagnostic gap and save millions of precious lives? 

  1. We have been implementing several awareness campaigns to educate about what TB is, how it is transmitted and how it is treated. However, the stigma is still there, and it's a complex problem.
  2. Additional policies are needed to protect the rights of people with TB.Continuous support for advanced technologies, as well as ancillary diagnostic tests in low resource settings are needed to provide better access to diagnostic tools for TB. 
  3. To identify new and resistant strains, we need specific drug susceptibility testing that is not available in low resources settings most of the time. Providing such testing will require a comprehensive approach involving national TV programs as well as partners in that can help make the required technology available in low resource settings. 

In conclusion, addressing the limitations of the diagnosis of TB in low resource settings is the key for those fighting against tuberculosis. It is necessary to combine several actions, since eliminating stigma, providing technologies and ancillary diagnosis will require the work of national programs and partners in other countries. We need help of the world. 

Author: Ashley Hagen, M.S.

Ashley Hagen, M.S.
Ashley Hagen, M.S. is the Scientific and Digital Editor for the American Society for Microbiology and host of ASM's Microbial Minutes.