Age appropriate treatment of drug-resistant tuberculosis in South Africa

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Drug-resistant tuberculosis (DR-TB) is a threat to TB control globally. South Africa has the third highest epidemic of DR-TB – following only Russia and China, two much more populous countries. South Africa has stringent guidelines for treating DR-TB; however, little is known about adherence to these guidelines. Additionally, little is known about age appropriate treatment, particularly in youth (13-24 years) who may have differing needs than adults with DR-TB. South Africa also has the world’s largest HIV epidemic – nearly 18% of the population is infected with HIV. Individuals with HIV are 26 to 31 times more likely to become infected with TB than individuals without HIV. Among individuals in South Africa with TB, there is a 57-68% HIV coinfection rate.

This dissertation includes a systematic literature review (Chapter 2) exploring barriers to TB treatment initiation in sub-Saharan Africa with an emphasis on children and youth. Additionally, time to treatment was assessed per South African guidelines (i.e. initiating treatment within five days of diagnosis) and total days from DR-TB diagnosis to DR-TB treatment initiation. This analysis included multi-level modeling with fixed patient- (sex, history of TB, HIV coinfection) and system-characteristics (urban-rural location, province) and random effects of treatment site. Guidelines were further evaluated, by assessing through descriptive statistics and logistic regression, receipt of guideline recommended care in terms of correct medications prescribed, correct dosage prescribed, and correct frequency prescribed at treatment initiation (correct regimen).

Barriers exist for all individuals with TB to initiate treatment regardless of age. These barriers are at the patient- and system-level and include: costs, health seeking behaviors, and infrastructure. More research is needed to identify barriers specifically among children and youth, as only four articles reviewed focused on these vulnerable populations. The time to DR-TB treatment is delayed for 84% of South Africans, and age did not predict delays. Seventeen percent of individuals coinfected with HIV receive care per guidelines compared to 12% of those without coinfection. Additionally, receipt of correct medications was prescribed to 88% of patients, yet only 33% received correct medications and doses, and still, only 30% received the full correct regimen. Age was not a strong predictor for receipt of correct guideline based treatment. In conclusion, more research must be focused on younger individuals with TB, particularly DR-TB. More research investigating guideline recommended care is essential to improve patient outcomes, prevent the transmission of DR-TB in communities, and to prevent further drug resistance.






Sullivan, Brittney Jayne (2017). Age appropriate treatment of drug-resistant tuberculosis in South Africa. Dissertation, Duke University. Retrieved from


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