Health-e (Cape Town)

23 November 2012

South Africa: Diagnostic Machine a Boon for TB Patients

Lusikisiki — Advocacy drives by civil society organisations such as the Treatment Action Campaign are bringing about positive change in this Eastern Cape community.

One such example is the implementation of a GeneXpert machine at St Elizabeth Hospital in Lusikisiki following a recent campaign advocating for comprehensive TB/HIV healthcare services. The GeneXpert MTB/RIFTB was installed at St Elizabeth Hospital in September.

The GeneXpert is a sophisticated TB diagnostic device that can process a sputum sample in less than two hours. It can also detect drug resistance to the first-line TB treatment, Rifampicin. Traditionally a TB diagnosis was made through sputum smear microscopy and chest X-ray that usually took at least two weeks, and required highly trained staff and an equipped laboratory.

A 26-year old Mirriam James told OurHealth that she tested for TB in February 2012 after experiencing symptoms. She did a TB culture at Mpoza Clinic and waited two months for her results, which eventually came back negative. But her symptoms persisted and she asked for a referral letter to St Elizabeth Hospital where she could be checked by the GeneXpert.

"After suffering severe coughing and night sweats I decided to get a second opinion. What stressed me most was that my seven-month old baby was also coughing,” said James. “I went to the hospital and my sputum was taken and I was told to wait for two hours before I get my results. The results showed that I have TB, and currently I am doing well on my treatment. They also tested my baby girl and I am fortunate that she does not have TB.”

One of the doctors at St Elizabeth Hospital, Dr Damba, is very excited about the machine. "This test improves the time it takes on the results of TB cultures, and it doesn’t need trained health personnel and expensive laboratory equipment," said Damba.

Thandeka Vinjwa is an OurHealth Citizen Journalist reporting from Lusikisiki in the OR Tambo health district in the Eastern Cape.

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