Grahamstown could get new technology that helps doctors diagnose TB within two hours by the end of next year.
GeneXpert, a device comprising a computer and a machine that takes cartridges loaded with sputum and reagents, was launched by Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi in Durban last Thursday, World TB Day.
The current TB test is a lab culture on a sputum sample, and has a turnaround time of 24 to 36 hours. It is relatively expensive, and has poor specificity, when it comes to recognising different strains of the virus.
Eastern Cape health spokesperson, Sizwe Kupelo, confirmed that four centres in the province had received the new technology, namely, St Barnabas Hospital, in Libode, Mthatha General hospital, Nessie Knight hospital, in Qumbu, and Holy Cross hospital in Flagstaff.
Local TB facility, Themba TB hospital, in Grahamstown, is one of the hospitals in the province likely to receive the machinery during the next 18 months.
Themba's Matron, Nelisa Dyantyi, said, "It is a pity that we were not one of the hospitals to receive the equipment, but I am sure we will eventually get it." KwaZulu-Natal and the Eastern Cape are reported to account for almost 50% of all TB cases and Kupelo said the Eastern Cape was planning to intensify its TB case-finding campaign, saying that 88 nurses had been recruited for this purpose.
"We are embarking on a TB case-finding campaign and HIV counselling and testing. We are targeting shebeens, taxi ranks and households," he said. He said the high number of cases reported in the province proved the campaign was already working. "We have managed to increase our TB cure rate and reduced the treatment defaulter rate in the province," said Kupelo.