Three tidbits on COVID & TB

Themed TidBits: May / June 2021

Welcome to a themed issue on COVID and TB. We will be sharing news on COVID and TB regularly, in addition to regular tidbits.

COVID-19 in Peru: TB makes a comeback

The COVID-19 pandemic has intense adverse implications on TB diagnosis and treatment globally, and the situation in Peru is endemic of the many challenges being faced within high-burden countries. With the necessary lockdowns in place, healthcare systems on the brink of collapse, and patients disinclined to enter healthcare settings, initiatives to halt the spread of and eradicate TB are no longer as efficacious. Peruvian efforts to combat TB have been virtually halted due to the pandemic, as it has become nearly impossible to actively diagnose patients, track cases, and administer treatment. These service disruptions are likely to have implications that will outlast COVID-19’s initial impact, seriously threatening the WHO’s 2030 deadline for the eradication of TB. The additional TB cases and deaths attributable to the pandemic’s effects has the potential to set-back the fight against TB by decades, as a growing caseload is likely building while diagnosis and treatment remain difficult to access. In Peru, to overcome these unprecedented challenges, Partners in Health has leveraged their TB Móvil program to increase mobile screening efforts which utilize AI powered TB detection software. Hopefully, the further implementation of these tools will allow providers in Peru to continue their TB eradication efforts despite the extenuating circumstances and lessen the probable growing mass of TB cases that require diagnosis and treatment.

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Cover Image Credits: CDC

Effects of COVID-19 on TB Notifications in Malawi

The coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic might affect tuberculosis (TB) diagnosis and patient care. Malawi did not have an official COVID-19 lockdown but closed schools and borders on March 23, 2020. In an interrupted time series analysis, we noted an immediate 35.9% reduction in TB notifications in April 2020; notifications recovered to near pre-pandemic numbers by December 2020. However, 333 fewer cumulative TB notifications were received than anticipated. Women and girls were affected more (30.7% fewer cases) than men and boys (20.9% fewer cases).

Fear of COVID-19 infection, temporary facility closures, inadequate personal protective equipment, and COVID-19 stigma because of similar symptoms to TB were mentioned as reasons for fewer people being diagnosed with TB. Public health measures could benefit control of both TB and COVID-19, but only if TB diagnostic services remain accessible and are considered safe to attend.

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Measles, Polio and TB Vaccines May Boost Immunity to Coronavirus

The scientists suggest that LAVs prospectively might offer a vital tool to bend the pandemic curve, averting the exhaustion of public health resources and preventing needless deaths, and merit being studied. “A review of epidemiological, clinical and biological evidence suggests that induction of innate immunity by existing LAVs, that is, the broadly effective vaccines, can protect against unrelated infections such as coronavirus, and could be used to control epidemics caused by emerging pathogens,” said Dr. Robert Gallo.

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