Stellenbosch Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences releases a short video about TB in the times of COVID-19

October 21, 2021

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TriageTB’s Coordinating Institution, Stellenbosch University (SUN), in Cape Town, South Africa, has put together a 5-minue video about how the ongoing pandemic has affected their tuberculosis (TB) research.

When COVID-19 hit South Africa last spring and the country went into a strict lockdown, access to TB testing and treatment was severely restricted, all SUN’s ongoing TB clinical research studies were paused, and their TB lab temporarily closed.

The SUN TB team got creative. They sat down and looked at how, when patients could no longer access TB clinics, they could instead reach out to patients. Beyond ensuring access to TB care, they also reviewed how they could adjust their ongoing studies, applied for funding to include COVID-related research questions in existing TB studies to learn more about TB and COVID-19 co-infection, and put together their own bronchoscopy suite.

How a creative mindset helped the SUN team include COVID-19 questions in ongoing TB research projects

"When humans are faced with a huge challenge, they always try to address the challenge," says Prof Novel Chegou in the video, describing the SUN Immunology Research Group's attitude in the early phase of the COVID-19 pandemic.

TB disease usually develops slowly. This means that the last year's setback in TB testing and treatment will impact the spread of the disease for years to come. But the world is already seeing the impacts of COVID-19 on TB. For the first time in over a decade, TB deaths increased in 2020. Last year, a total of 1.5 million people died from the disease.

“We need bigger projects, moving faster to develop more sensitive, specific diagnostic tests, new drugs and more vaccine options. We need political will, funding and for all stakeholders to work together. Hopefully the momentum created by COVID-19 can be used for TB as well,” says Prof Andre Loxton in the video.

Learn more about how the SUN team works to combat TB, watch SUN’s 5-minute video below.

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