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n South African Medical Journal - Delay in commencing treatment for MDR TB at a specialised TB treatment centre in KwaZulu-Natal : research
Background. According to the National Department of Health (NDoH) guidelines, patients diagnosed with multidrug-resistant tuberculosis (MDR TB) must be referred to a specialised treatment centre for initiation of effective therapy. MDR TB is difficult to diagnose and the centralised referral model is beset with challenges that contribute to treatment delays, increased patient morbidity and mortality, and MDR TB nosocomial transmission. Culture and drug sensitivity testing (DST) takes 8 weeks or longer to obtain results while line probe assays (LPAs) can give a result in hours. LPAs and the GeneXpert MTB/Rif (GX) are ground-breaking discoveries for TB diagnosis. However, they are not easily accessible or available to those needing it, so culture and sensitivity testing remains the gold standard for diagnosis.
Aim. This study aimed to assess the delay in the initiation of MDR TB treatment and profiled the patients being referred to a specialised drug-resistant treatment centre in KwaZulu-Natal.
Results. Of all the patients, 75% referred showed a mean delay of 12.4 weeks from the date of sputum collection for culture and drug sensitivity testing to the start of treatment. Most of the patients were symptomatic for TB and HIV-positive.
Discussion. Our findings suggest that current policy on the initiation of effective treatment needs urgent revision. Staff should be appropriately trained in LPA and GX technology to reduce delays in initiating treatment for MDR TB. The NDoH's plans for rapid diagnosis and reducing the treatment burden on centralised MDR TB management facilities are in the early phases of implementation and will take years to achieve favourable and significant outcomes.
Conclusion. There is a significant delay in initiating definitive management for MDR TB.
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