By Margaret Kalekye/KNA
Kenya has adopted the use of GeneXpert for rapid diagnosis of TB and its drug resistant variant with a turnaround of under two hours.
Based on the new technology, the government has achieved significant successes in testing for TB which went up from 20,000 in 2014 to 80,000 in 2015.
Kenya will be the fifth country to join South Africa, Botswana, Lesotho and Nigeria in adopting the innovative approaches a first test starting from July this year.
Speaking Thursday during the commemoration of the World Tuberculosis Day at a Nairobi hotel, Health Ministry Permanent Secretary (PS), Dr Nicholas Muraguri said the policy on GeneXopert testing has recommended use among individuals suspected to have drug resistant TB or HIV related TB.
“We have therefore from 1st July of 2016 directed that GeneXpert becomes the first test of all people suspected to have TB at facilities where the equipment is placed”, he said in a speech read on behalf of the Cabinet Secretary Dr. Cleopha Mailu.
The CS however noted that despite the progress the country is making, drug resistant TB still remains a major health concern in the country.
“It is distressing to note that TB still ranks as the 4th leading cause of death in Kenya and that many people with symptoms of TB still report late to health facilities while others don’t report at all “, he added.
Dr. Mailu said that despite this, Kenya has achieved universal access for HIV testing among TB patients and universal access to ART for those with HIV and TB and that through these interventions, the TB/ HIV Co- infection rate has reduced from 70 percent in 2010 to about 30 percent in 2015.
“With the ongoing implementation of preventive therapy using Isoniazid to protect people with HIV from developing TB, we can further reduce the cases of TB in this group including children under five in contact with persons with TB”, he said
World Health Organization (WHO) Country representative Dr. Custodia Mandlhate said approaches such as the GeneXpert and adoption of new tools will see reduction of TB deaths and occurrences by 75 percent and 50 percent respectively by 2025.
She said that Kenya slightly reported over 81,000 new TB cases last year with an estimated 10,000 deaths translating into 27 deaths per day which are avoidable.