The Child and Adolescent TB Centre of Excellence

The Union is launching the Child and Adolescent Tuberculosis (TB) Centre of Excellence in Uganda, to promote collaboration and learning across the Africa region to prevent needless child and adolescent TB deaths.

Stakeholders have gathered at a meeting in Uganda to mark the opening of the Centre of Excellence and discuss the future roles and activities of the Centre to improve to strengthen the detection, management and prevention of TB in children and adolescents to achieve the post-2015 End TB Strategy targets and the UN HLM targets. With this initiative, The Union aims to create a virtual network of TB professionals and organisations across Africa, offering technical leadership, capacity building and funding opportunities to improve child and adolescent TB research and practice.

With an estimated 239,000 children dying every year from this preventable disease, child TB is a high priority area for The Union. An estimated one million children developed TB in 2017, but less than half of these cases were detected and reported. TB is both treatable and curable, but 90 percent of children who die from TB did not receive the standard treatment that could have saved their lives.

Health systems in many countries neglect child TB because it is less contagious than adult TB and because the standard tools used to diagnose TB are less effective in children. TB is an often undiagnosed or misdiagnosed cause or co-morbidity of common childhood illnesses such as pneumonia, malnutrition and meningitis. Adolescents with TB are also neglected, despite being identified as a high risk age group for developing TB which is often highly infectious, and having age-specific challenges to access diagnosis and care.

The Union has provided global leadership to address the neglected needs of child and adolescent TB for more than a decade, and has been at the forefront of activities that have greatly increased attention to child TB over the last five years.

There is increased momentum in the Global Fight Against TB with ambitious targets, focusing on TB prevention and case finding among vulnerable populations including children, set by the Sustainable Development Goals, the World Health Organization End TB strategy and the Global Plan to End TB, as well as the first UN High Level Meeting on TB in 2018.

To achieve these targets, sustained advocacy and scientific expertise will be needed to ensure that the rights of children and adolescents are protected and that their specific needs are addressed in the political, policy and research agenda while ensuring that they receive high-quality, integrated care.

The Union-led DETECT Child TB project has demonstrated that medical professionals can be equipped with the knowledge and tools to diagnose and treat TB in children. The project screened households where an adult is diagnosed with TB to see if children have been exposed in the home, and where The Union piloted this approach in Uganda, 72 percent of at-risk children were able to receive preventive TB treatment, up from less than five percent previously.

These results were embraced by the global TB community with great interest, with several countries asking for more details and discussing opportunities for “south to south” learning exchanges between countries like Uganda and Zimbabwe in order to encourage wider implementation of this successful approach in high-endemic countries.

“The Child and Adolescent TB Centre of Excellence was created based on a need to develop, strengthen and support regional networks for child TB, especially in the sub-Saharan African region, which has a high burden of child and adolescent TB and HIV, and a high TB-related mortality,” said Dr Grania Brigden, Director, Department of Tuberculosis and HIV at The Union. “No child or adolescent should miss out on being able to access the best treatment available for a wholly treatable and curable disease.”

Read more about the Child and Adolescent Tuberculosis Centre of Excellence.

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