Innovative machine could significantly cut TB rates in Mozambique

New technology, which involves patients simply spitting into a cup, could vastly reduce waiting times for TB diagnosis

New machines that could dramatically increase survival rates of tuberculosis are being rolled out across Mozambique.

The GeneXpert technology, trialled in hospitals across the capital Maputo and Tete, is being introduced across the country over the next few weeks. Each of the ten provinces will be provided with at least one machine, which helps to speed up the diagnosis and treatment of the disease.

By automating diagnosis, turnaround times are significantly reduced and results are delivered within just two hours, compared to the current two to three months. The patient simply spits into a cup, and the sample is fed into a machine that uses cartridges to identify bacteria. Not only are waiting times for the prognosis significantly reduced, but this means that people can be started on multi-drug treatment immediately.

Civil society groups have previously voiced concerns that many less affluent tuberculosis sufferers have missed out on treatment as they are unable to make the journey to cities where help is available. Around 50,000 cases are diagnosed each year, but it is believed that the incidence rate is closer to 100,000. The portable on-site machines will greatly improve access to treatment, and the use of technology means that tuberculosis testing can be shifted to nurses, freeing up doctors for other medical tasks.

The system was originally developed to test for anthrax, and also for HIV in Médecins sans Frontières’ South African medical units.

The technology is funded by Unitaid, a global health organisation hosted by the World Health Organisation, which uses innovative financing mechanisms, such as flight levies, to raise cash for the diagnosis and treatment of tuberculosis, HIV and malaria in low-income countries.