Dr. Gabriel Adakole, a Public Health expert, says early diagnosis and early detection of childhood Tuberculosis (TB), is key to ensuring positive outcomes in treatment and recovery.
Adakole said this in an Interview with the News Agency of Nigeria, NAN, on Thursday in Abuja.
The expert said that delay in TB diagnosis in children was linked to lower treatment outcomes and more advanced diseases, including serious pulmonary and extrapulmonary illnesses like meningitis.
“Despite achieving great public health strides to control TB in advanced countries, it remains an enormous public health issue even in a country as big as Nigeria,” he said.
He explained that accurate statistics on pediatric TB cases were difficult to obtain for multiple reasons, including denial, challenges in confirming diagnosis, and under-reporting to the National TB Programme.
According to Adakole however, clinical and radiographic manifestations were less specific in children compared to adults, and were often confused with bacterial pneumonia.
“Microbiologic confirmation of disease is limited by the paucibacillary nature of TB in children; in general, TB cultures and newer rapid molecular tests, are positive in the minority of children, generally 25–40 per cent of children with TB,” he explained.
He also noted that there were often logistic challenges in obtaining adequate specimens from young children.
According to him, in the era of multi-drug-resistant TB (MDR-TB), in which the organism is resistant to isoniazid and rifampin (the two most potent first-line agents), there is an increasing need for health facilities to attempt culture-confirmation of suspected child TB cases, in order to explore treatment options.
“Among children who are started on TB therapy, families struggle with proper dose administration due to the lack of pediatric drug formulations, and there are programmatic gaps in notifying the National TB Programme, leading to under-reporting across the country,” he said.
He added that with proper management, including timely treatment initiation with appropriate drug doses, treatment outcomes were generally favourable.
Adakole stressed that TB awareness should, however, go beyond providing general information about the disease, but should include prevention, early detection, curbing transmission, effective treatment and care.