Tackling the growing spread of tuberculosis

Overcoming the barriers to tuberculosis diagnosis

Despite being a preventable and curable disease, tuberculosis (TB) remains a leading cause of death, causing 1.5 million deaths in 2020 – second only to COVID-19 in recent years. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), around 2 billion people are living with latent TB globally with an estimated- 10 million new active tuberculosis cases in 2020, 98% of which were in low and middle income countries (LMICs). TB continues to add a significant healthcare and socioeconomic burden, and as part of its End TB Strategy, the WHO has emphasised the need to make molecular diagnostics more easily available aiming to end the global TB epidemic by 2030.

In addition, the WHO estimates that some 4.1 million people (up from 2.9 million in 2019) currently suffer from TB but have not been diagnosed with the disease or have not officially reported to national authorities. With resistance to treatment rising and nontuberculous mycobacteria (NTM) – which mimics symptoms of TB – also increasing globally, clinicians need to accurately detect and determine the appropriate treatment path quickly and conclusively.

Efforts to stem the spread of TB have been further hindered by the coronavirus pandemic, as health and socioeconomic systems worldwide have come under intense strain. The impact of the pandemic on TB communities has triggered governments and non-governmental organisations to rethink TB diagnostics and patient care.

Expanding access to diagnostic solutions

A reliable and accurate diagnosis for TB not only lowers the risk of further transmission, but also reduces delays in treatment and additional healthcare and socioeconomic system burdens. Roche is participating in several initiatives to help eliminate TB worldwide.

Building health system capacity beyond the lab

In 2019, we expanded our Global Access Program to include TB diagnostic solutions, which helps LMICs obtain high-quality tests at an affordable price. The Global Access Program is not just about affordable diagnostics: it's a holistic approach to support the strengthening of healthcare systems in LMICs. For Roche, this means offering training, partnerships and tests, because all these efforts collectively ensure patients receive an accurate diagnosis and begin lifesaving therapy.

Supporting WHO guidelines expanding access to TB diagnostics

Since July 2021, our tests have been part of the expanded WHO guidelines to support TB diagnostics in resource-limited countries. By expanding the number of molecular tests available to national TB programs, patients in high-burden countries have improved access to diagnostics. In addition, LMICs now have diverse options for TB diagnostics that enable multi-partner approaches to ensure the optimal diagnostic system is placed in a given environment that will best serve patients. All this will support clinicians in properly diagnosing infections, accelerate treatment and reduce the spread of infection.

Reducing workplace transmission through Ending Workplace TB (EWTB initiative)

Up to 50% of cases of some infectious diseases originate in the workplace. Launched at the World Economic Forum in January 2020, EWTB is a coalition of companies and key organisations active in the fight against TB. It brings together some of the world’s leading practitioners of workplace health programming with leading technical agencies and non-governmental organisations to build policies and programmes for healthier, disease-safe workplaces. Roche joined the EWTB coalition in 2022 and is aiming to increase awareness of tuberculosis within key audiences to ensure that workers with TB are not discriminated against.

Learn more

Tuberculosis (TB) and COVID-19 are both infectious diseases that attack primarily the lungs. Both diseases have similar symptoms such as cough, fever and difficulty breathing. TB, however, has a longer incubation period with a slower onset of disease.

The coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has caused enormous health, social and economic impacts in 2020 and 2021. This includes impacts on the provision of and access to essential TB services, the number of people diagnosed with TB and notified as TB cases through national disease surveillance systems, and TB disease burden (incidence and mortality). While experience on COVID-19 infection in TB patients remains limited, it is anticipated that people ill with both TB and COVID-19 may have poorer treatment outcomes, especially if TB treatment is interrupted.

A unique characteristic of Roche’s diagnostic tools is that a single instrument can be used to detect multiple diseases. Our high-throughput molecular platforms that accommodate multiple disease-specific tests have proven beneficial during the COVID-19 pandemic and can help TB programs globally. The systems can be utilised for blood screening, as well as to tackle other elimination programs such as HIV, hepatitis B virus (HBV), human papillomavirus (HPV), and coronavirus.

Published undefined

Discover more

More stories of

See all stories