Pilot project on mainland helps identify more patients with TB

Screening at selected hospitals of people with diabetes results in high detection rates of TB

PUBLISHED : Monday, 03 December, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 03 December, 2012, 5:57am

The World Health Organisation recommends that diabetes patients be screened for TB - because diabetes triples the risk of developing TB - and that TB patients also be screened for diabetes.

However, few countries have implemented such a scheme.

With health workers around the world still trying to figure out the feasibility and affordability of such screening, a nine-month pilot project on the mainland could provide some clues.

Lin Yan, director of the China office of the International Union Against Tuberculosis and Lung Disease, said it had been a success. "This pilot project demonstrated that it is feasible to carry out screening of diabetes patients for TB, resulting in high detection rates of TB," Lin said. "The framework was very new and this is the first known large-scale study to demonstrate it is possible to do large-scale bidirectional screening."

The mainland has the second highest number of TB cases in the world - after India - estimated at between 900,000 and 1.2 million new cases a year. It also has 92.4 million adults with diabetes and 148 million adults with prediabetes symptoms.

The pilot project, involving the Chinese Centre for Disease Control and Prevention, the union, the WHO and the World Diabetes Foundation, selected six hospitals for screening TB patients for diabetes and five others for screening diabetes patients for TB for about nine months from September last year.

More than 9,000 TB patients were screened and 13 per cent were found to have diabetes.

"If it had not been for the screening, these patients would not have been identified," a report published in July's issue of Tropical Medicine and International Health said. If the screening was implemented across the mainland it could lead to the discovery of 30,000 new diabetes cases a year.

More than 15,300 diabetes patients were screened for TB, with higher rates found than in the general population.