Knowledge is key in detecting TB

By Dr. Georgies Mgode | Country Program Manager, APOPO TB Tanzania

A two-day refresher course in Tanzania.

Tuberculosis (TB) is an infectious disease caused by bacteria, namely Mycobacterium tuberculosis, which is spread from one person to another through the air. TB can be treated and cured but is mostly fatal if undetected and left untreated. People who work in the control of TB are more likely to be exposed to TB through contact with patients who have infectious TB, or live samples that contain the TB bacteria.

Knowledge on TB best practices is key – for health and safety at work, for correctly using diagnostic technologies, and for raising awareness on TB, and on how to live with it, and battle against it.

With this in mind, at APOPO’s TB program in Tanzania we held a two-day TB refresher training last weekend. The training facilitators were Mr. Salim Bossy from the National Tuberculosis and Leprosy Program (NTLP) and Said Mfaume from the Central Tuberculosis Reference Laboratory (CTRL) also associated with the National Institute for Medical Research (NIMR). They shared first-hand knowledge and course materials on TB disease and TB diagnosis, engaged the team, and held informative question and answer sessions. All of our APOPO’s TB team attended; APOPO’s medical officer, the head of department, training supervisors, lab scientists, lab technicians, lab assistants, data managers, logistic staff, sample collectors and drivers. The training covered the characteristics of the disease, safety precautions in TB laboratories, different diagnostic tests including microscopy, bacterial culture, molecular tests, and drug resistant testing.

Work safety and quality assurance are important to APOPO. We are using heat-inactivated (made safe) samples to protect both TB detection rats and staff from exposure to TB. Proper safety measures are of utmost priority during clinic visits, sample collection and preparation, in order to ensure there are minimal risks to the staff involved. APOPO’s laboratory staff regularly carry out quality control by through the external quality assurance test from the United Kingdom National External Quality Assessment Service for Microbiology (UK NEQAS). Quality however also matters during sample collection and transport.

At APOPO, we have been engaged in TB response for over 15 years, but the course provided an excellent refresher on all procedures and insights into Tanzania’s TB control strategy and strengthened everyone’s contributions to a high quality of diagnostics and work safety .

The training entirely fulfilled its purpose and our expectations, and it inspires us to continue to research and understand TB, and to share and apply new insights. The training was also a good opportunity to reunite friends from the APOPO TB research and testing teams in Morogoro and the testing facility in Dar es Salaam, separated by four hours’ drive, but united in their commitment to detect TB.

We greatly acknowledge the excellent course facilitators, the participants, and
all partners and donors of the TB program who made this training possible.