TB and HIV: Partners in Crime

TB goes unnoticed in many rural African populations with high HIV infection

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) A recent study shows that a majority of tuberculosis cases in HIV-infected patients are going undiagnosed in rural African populations with minimal health resources.

thirty-three million people around the world are living with HIV and almost two million a year die from complications associated with the virus. Two million people a year also die from tuberculosis, a deadly infection that commonly attacks the lungs. It is the leading killer of people with HIV.

Tuberculosis (TB) has proven very difficult to detect in African patients with HIV and many cases go undiagnosed, according to recent studies by scientists in the Netherlands, Kenya and the United States.

The current detection method is called "passive detection" and has been employed since the 1970s. Diagnoses aren't made until a patient reports a long period of coughing, but by then it could be dangerously far-gone.

Dr. Anja van't Hoog from the University of Amsterdam insists that "more aggressive, intensive methods of detection are needed to help identify more cases, and identify them earlier." A team of researchers conducted tests for 20,566 adults from random rural villages in western Kenya and found 123 infected with TB. 51 percent of them were also infected with HIV.

TB often presents itself differently in patients with HIV, making it harder to diagnose. Dr. van't Hoog says that most of the people identified by the study to have TB would not have been diagnosed with the traditional tests. More accurate tests are available but are more costly and not as widely accessible.

Dr. van't Hoog stresses the importance of early detection and testing in these areas where resources are very scarce. "Intensified case finding is required to control TB in this...high HIV-prevalence setting," she says. "Future research should focus on ensuring these goals are met."

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Review Date: 
January 17, 2011
Last Updated:
January 17, 2011