China's TB control project avoids 770,000 deaths

08:31, January 21, 2010      

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A total of 770,000 deaths from tuberculosis (TB) were avoided over the past eight years in China thanks to a large-scale TB control project, it was announced Wednesday.

The project covering 670 million Chinese, nearly half of China's population, also prevented 20 million people from getting infected with TB bacteria.

China's Ministry of Health (MOH), the World Bank, and Britain's Department for International Development (DFID), which jointly launched the 2002-2010 project, held a meeting here Wednesday to review the results while identifying challenges ahead.

Yu Dezhi, an MOH official in charge of the project supervision, said the project had provided free diagnosis and treatment to 1.84 million smear positive TB patients (diagnosed by their sputum), with 1.39 million cured.

"It's estimated that 770,000 deaths from tuberculosis were avoided thanks to the project, and 20 million people were prevented from getting infected with TB bacteria," Yu said.

China's population of TB patients was estimated as 4.5 million in 2009, the world's second largest only after India.

Health experts attributed the success of the project largely to DOTS (directly observed therapy shortcourse) implemented in 16 project provinces, by which patients take TB drugs under direct supervision of doctors.

"This practice boosts patients' adherence to TB therapy, which is key to preventing the infection from developing into drug-resistant TB," said Zhao Genming, a Fudan University professor in public health who led a third-party assessment of the project, which uses 242 million U.S. dollars from the World Bank loan and the donation fund of Britain.

Yu said the detection rate of smear positive TB reached 77 percent, and cure rate 90 percent, achieving the project goal ahead of schedule.

The wrap up report also identified remaining challenges, such as high multi-drug resistant TB burden, TB prevalence among migrant population, and co-infection of TB and HIV.

Source: Xinhua
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