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Diagnostic Advancements and Clinical Research Impact on Tuberculosis in Nigeria

Tuberculosis (TB) remains a significant public health challenge in Nigeria, as it does in many parts of the world. This infectious disease, caused by Mycobacterium tuberculosis, has plagued the country for decades, causing suffering and economic burden. This article describes the current state of TB in Nigeria, focusing on the burden it imposes, diagnostic advancements, and how clinical research has influenced its treatment.

Nigeria is one of the high-burden countries for tuberculosis in Africa and globally. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), Nigeria ranks among the top 10 countries with the highest TB burden globally. In 2019, Nigeria accounted for an estimated 18% of all TB cases in Africa, with approximately 440,000 new TB cases reported. TB is a leading cause of morbidity and mortality in Nigeria, especially among individuals with compromised immune systems, such as those living with HIV/AIDS.

Several factors contribute to the high TB burden in Nigeria. Poverty, overcrowding, inadequate healthcare infrastructure, and limited access to rural healthcare services play significant roles. Furthermore, the emergence of drug-resistant TB strains poses a growing threat to TB control efforts, making treatment more challenging and costly.

Diagnostic Advancements in Tuberculosis

Accurate and timely diagnosis is crucial for TB control and treatment. Diagnostic advancements have played a pivotal role in improving the detection of TB cases, reducing transmission rates, and ultimately, saving lives in Nigeria.

GeneXpert Technology: One of the most significant advancements in TB diagnostics has been the introduction of the GeneXpert technology. GeneXpert is a molecular diagnostic platform that can detect Mycobacterium tuberculosis and resistance to the antibiotic rifampicin (a marker for multidrug-resistant TB) in hours. This technology has revolutionised TB diagnosis in Nigeria, especially for individuals with HIV/AIDS, as it provides faster and more accurate results than conventional methods.

Rapid Molecular Tests: Besides GeneXpert, other rapid molecular tests like the loop-mediated isothermal amplification (LAMP) assay and the Xpert MTB/RIF Ultra have been introduced to enhance TB diagnosis further. These tests are particularly beneficial in remote and resource-limited settings where traditional laboratory infrastructure may be lacking.

Mobile TB Diagnostic Vans: Some organisations have deployed mobile TB diagnostic vans equipped with state-of-the-art diagnostic tools to reach underserved populations. These vans can travel to remote areas and provide on-the-spot testing and diagnosis, ensuring that individuals with TB can receive treatment promptly.

Improved Point-of-Care Testing: Researchers are continuously developing more accessible point-of-care TB tests, which can be administered at the community level, reducing the need for patients to travel long distances to healthcare facilities.

Clinical research has played a vital role in improving TB treatment outcomes in Nigeria. These studies have led to the developing of more effective treatment regimens and better strategies for managing TB, including drug-resistant strains. Clinical research has also been instrumental in discovering and developing new TB drugs. Bedaquiline and delamanid, for example, are novel drugs that have shown promise in treating multidrug-resistant TB (MDR-TB). These drugs offer hope to patients who would otherwise have limited treatment options. To fulfil our promise of expanding therapeutic reach, Bispharm Clinical is working with BioPharma and other stakeholders to ensure that new diagnostics and therapeutics streamlined to arrest TB infection are rapidly developed and deployed for use.

Treatment Optimization: Clinical trials have helped optimise TB treatment regimens. Research findings have led to shorter and more effective treatment protocols, reducing the duration of therapy for many patients. This not only improves adherence but also decreases the risk of drug resistance.

Drug Resistance Management: Clinical research has provided critical insights into managing drug-resistant TB. Studies on treatment adherence, patient support, and the use of second-line drugs have contributed to better outcomes for MDR-TB patients.

Co-infection Management: Given the high prevalence of HIV in Nigeria, clinical research has also focused on managing TB-HIV co-infection. Integrated care models have been developed to address the unique needs of individuals with both diseases, leading to better health outcomes.

Despite the significant advancements in TB diagnostics and treatment, Nigeria still faces several challenges in its battle against the disease.

  • Stigma and Awareness: TB stigma remains a significant barrier to early diagnosis and treatment. Many individuals are afraid to seek medical attention due to the fear of discrimination. Raising awareness and addressing stigma are critical components of TB control efforts.

  • Healthcare Infrastructure: Nigeria needs substantial improvement to provide quality TB care nationwide. Building and upgrading healthcare facilities, especially in rural areas, is essential for reaching underserved populations.

  • Drug Access: Ensuring a consistent supply of TB drugs, including the newer ones, is crucial. Drug procurement and distribution delays can result in treatment interruptions, leading to treatment failure and drug resistance.

  • Research and Development Funding: Sustained funding for TB research and development is vital to continue progressing in diagnostics, treatment, and prevention strategies. International collaboration and partnerships are essential in this regard.

Tuberculosis remains a significant public health challenge in Nigeria, with a high burden of cases and associated mortality. However, advancements in diagnostic technologies and the influence of clinical research have led to improved detection and treatment options, offering hope for those affected by the disease. To further reduce the burden of TB in Nigeria, it is crucial to address challenges such as stigma, healthcare infrastructure, drug access, and sustained funding for research and development. By doing so, Nigeria can progress towards ending TB within its borders.

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