Research by USAID-funded Fellows Finds Multifaceted Approach to Tuberculosis Control is Needed

DHAKA, August 25, 2022— Today, the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) Alliance for Combating TB in Bangladesh (ACTB) activity, implemented by icddr,b,held an event for fellows to share their preliminary tuberculosis (TB) research.

The event was graced by the Chief Guest Dr. Md. Anwar Hossain Howlader, Secretary, Health Services Division, Ministry of Health and Family Welfare (MOHFW), and attended by Ms. Miranda Beckman, Acting Office Director, Office of Population, Health and Nutrition USAID/Bangladesh; Dr. Tahmeed Ahmed, Executive Director, icddr,b and Dr. Firdausi Qadri, Acting Senior Director, Infectious Diseases Division, icddr,b.

Dr. Azizur Rahman Sharaque, MBBS, MPH, BSMMU was one of the four fellows who presented his findings on the prevalence of drug-sensitive and drug-resistant TB among household contacts of multidrug-resistant TB (MDR-TB) patients in Dhaka. In a cross-sectional study, from November 2020 to October 2021 the researcher interviewed 355 household contacts of 93 MDR-TB patients in Dhaka. It was found that 9.9% of household contacts had TB-like symptoms and subsequently 6.7% were diagnosed with TB. Moreover, screening 178 household contacts of MDR-TB patients could result in detection of one person with TB.

Dr. Fariha Alam Mihika, MBBS, MPH, BSMMU presented her study on the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on pulmonary TB control services in selected areas of Dhaka. In a cross-sectional study conducted between November and December 2021, the researcher interviewed service providers and TB patients from six upazila health complexes. She found that TB screening was significantly affected (between 16%-35%) and service receivers reported a lack of transportation (95%) due to the national lockdown and fear of getting COVID-19 (77%) as major challenges for screening. There were many challenges for the service providers, including lack of human resources, increased workload, and being infected with COVID-19.

Dr. Md. Imtiaz Uddin, MBBS, MPH, NIPSOM presented his study on the barriers to the detection of childhood tuberculosis in Dhaka. In a qualitative study, the researcher interviewed 32 children with TB, their parents, and service providers. The study revealed that major barriers to the detection of childhood TB include social stigma, misconception and lack of knowledge in the community about childhood TB, insufficient contact investigation, limited availability of testing, inadequate human resources and financial constraints.

Ms. Momtaz Begum, MPH, NIPSOM presented her study on the knowledge and attitude of healthcare workers and patients on MDR-TB. From January to December 2021, in a cross-sectional study, the researcher interviewed 232 participants comprising 101 healthcare workers and 131 patients. The study revealed that 93% of doctors had good knowledge of MDR-TB, while about 69% of nurses and 82% of patients had a fair knowledge of the issue.

On the occasion, Dr. Md Anwar Hossain Howlader lauded icddr,b-led ACTB’s fellowship initiative, and also appreciated the researchers for their efforts. He said, “These researches highlight the importance of conducting research and translation of research findings in program delivery. This will, in turn, help us achieve the SDG goals and improve TB situation in Bangladesh.”

In her remarks, Ms. Miranda Beckman said, “There is a lot of stigma around TB. This is great to see researchers’ findings such as raising awareness, detecting and treating TB can reduce mortality. Look at the speed of COVID-19 vaccine, treatment, all the research and new knowledge that came out due to all the attention directed to COVID-19. We can do that to TB if we can invest that level of funding, interest and attention to TB.”

Dr. Tahmeed Ahmed commended the work of the fellows and emphasized the importance of fellowship. He said, “This fellowship motivates health professionals to do more research on TB. It also   mentors and nurtures future researchers so that they can conduct medical research independently in future.”

The studies are the outcome of a collaboration between icddr,b-led USAID’s ACTB, BSMMU, and NIPSOM. Four fellowships were awarded to post-graduate physicians/students conducting their research/theses on tuberculosis. It offered a unique opportunity to prepare next-generation researchers on TB issues.

The event was well attended by representatives from the National Tuberculosis Control Programme (NTP), USAID, BSMMU, NIPSOM, media, icddr,b, and other TB stakeholders in Bangladesh.


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