MSF project to tackle TB in children

The charity aims to improve diagnosis and treatment of tuberculosis globally

Max Ryan

March 29, 2024

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  • Humanitarian organisation Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) recently launched a new initiative that aims to increase the number of children diagnosed with the silent scourge of tuberculosis (TB), as well as improve their treatment and prevent new cases. The charity, also known as Doctors Without Borders, will use the new initiative to support projects in implementing the latest recommendations in the World Health Organization’s (WHO) recently updated guidelines on the disease.

    Focusing on more than a dozen countries in Africa and Asia, the initiative is called ‘Test, Avoid, Cure Tuberculosis in Children (TACTiC)’ and will contribute to several multi-region studies to assess the validity and feasibility of the new recommendations, as well as help healthcare professionals in these areas to develop better processes for diagnosing TB.

    The initiative commenced last year following a finding from a UNICEF study that 96% of children who die from TB never received appropriate treatment.

    MSF said this is because healthcare professionals can be reluctant to commence the lengthy treatment for TB without having established a formal diagnosis. Many currently available tests cannot detect low levels of TB-causing bacteria, which can still be enough to make a child very sick. Many tests have also been developed for adults and often rely on specimens such as sputum, which is difficult for a child to cough up.

    “Recent WHO recommendations on the diagnosis of TB in children can be a game-changer to increase the number of children diagnosed and put on correct treatment,” said Cathy Hewison, head of MSF’s tuberculosis working group. “They provide clinicians and TB programmes with the confidence to make the decision to treat TB in children using signs and symptoms without relying on results of lab tests or x-rays if they are not available or when the test results are negative.”

    To read the WHO’s TB recommendations, visit and search for ‘Global Tuberculosis Programme’.

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