Childhood TB May be '25% Higher Than Estimated' - Study

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Woman suffering from Tuberculosis holds her baby, who suffers from TB and malnutrition, in a hospital in Minakaman
A woman suffering from Tuberculosis (TB) holds her baby, who suffers from TB and malnutrition, in a hospital in Minakaman, Lakes State, June 26, 2014. Reuters

Lancet Global Health has published a research suggesting about 15 million children suffer from tuberculosis (TB) annually while 53 million succumb to latent TB infection that may eventually lead to contagious TB.

The study involved children from 22 selected countries and the outcome was spine-chilling showing an increase of 25 percent of the current estimate for childhood TB.

Dr. Peter Dodd, lead author from the University of Sheffield in the UK, cited there is an enormous opportunity for preventive antibiotic treatment for these children below 15 years and live under the same roof with an adult member suffering from TB.

"Wider use of isoniazid therapy for these children as a preventative measure would probably substantially reduce the numbers of children who go on to develop the disease," he added.

Nearly 65 percent of the cases of active childhood TB patients are not detected by national TB programs. The research estimated there are 650,000 TB cases among children each year, which was 25% above the World Health Organization's estimate.

India accounted for 27 percent of the cases, majority of which were child TB cases.

"Children are an often ignored but important part of TB control efforts. In high-burden settings, childhood TB makes up a substantial fraction of the total TB burden," Dr. Dodd said.

He pointed out there was much under reporting in younger children. There are more cases than those recorded.

"Quantifying the burden of TB in children is important because without good numbers, there can be no targets for improvement, no monitoring of trends and there is a lack of evidence to encourage industry to invest in developing medicines or diagnostics that are more appropriate for children than those available today," he said.

The research was brought to the limelight seeking for the production of antibiotic treatments of these 15 million children.

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