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Georgian Physicians are World Leaders in Treating Drug-Resistant Tuberculosis
Tuberculosis (TB)—especially drug-resistant (DR) and multidrug-resistant TB (MDR-TB)—represents one of the biggest challenges for public health in Georgia. In 2013, one out of 10 new TB patients was found to have MDR-TB. While the country has achieved universal access to MDR-TB detection and treatment improving follow-up rates and increasing treatment success has proved difficult. Due to the length and complexity of the treatment, one in three patients currently are lost to follow-up and the treatment success rate has remained at 50%.
In 2015, with Global Fund support, the country will introduce the program-wide use of Bedaquiline as part of a combination therapy in adults with pulmonary MDR-TB when an effective treatment regimen cannot otherwise be provided. Bedaquiline is the first new medication for pulmonary MDR-TB in over 40 years.
In order to support the National TB Program in introducing new MDR-TB treatment schemes, the USAID Georgia Tuberculosis Prevention Project led a training for TB specialists to ensure adherence to best practices in treatment delivery and safety and to enable optimal drug effectiveness.
On March 10–18, Dr. Lamara Vashakidze, head of Tbilisi State Medical University's TB department; Dr. Nana Kiria, clinical director of the National Center for TB and Lung Disease; and Dr. Jennifer Furin, international personnel expert, trained 63 TB specialists from all regions of the country, including the prison sector. The two-day training was conducted in small groups of 15–17 persons to allow for open dialogue and discussion, creating an excellent platform for providing information about programmatic introduction of new drugs for the treatment of DR-TB and MDR-TB.
This MDR-TB training is the largest ever conducted in the world. Georgia is emerging as a leader in the use of new drugs and now has a well-trained workforce that could be used to help provide training in other countries, in the region, and on a global level.
This USAID-sponsored training is the largest ever conducted on the use of new drugs for the treatment of drug-resistant TB, and it was incredibly exciting to work with this outstanding group of more than 60 treating clinicians. Their dedication to their patients and their enthusiasm for embracing these new tools is inspiring. Once again, Georgia is leading the global fight against DR-TB. There is no doubt that this training will greatly benefit the country and the patients who desperately need these new drugs. It was a privilege to work with the URC team and our partners at the National Center for TB and Lung Disease on this ground-breaking work. Other countries in the region and around the world should consider following Georgia's impressive lead.
Dr. Jennifer Furin
March 24, 2015