Fighting Drug Resistant TB In Africa With Genomics

Upcoming Global webinar to bring together leading experts on 22nd May to explain how genomics is changing the TB landscape.

 Illumina (NASDAQ: ILMN), a global leader in DNA sequencing and array-based technologies, this World TB Day (24th March) is urging for a rapid increase to the access and uptake of targeted next-generation sequencing (NGS) which is transforming the fight against drug-resistant TB in Africa.

Education on the role of genomics in managing tuberculosis (TB) is critical. To help accelerate this, Illumina is holding an educational global webinar on May 22, that is bringing together world leading experts, including Dr Shaheed Vally Omar, Head of the Centre for Tuberculosis at the National Institute for Communicable Diseases a division of the National Health Laboratory Service in South Africa.   

Recommended by the World Health Organization, targeted Next Generation Sequencing promises greater accuracy and speed in identifying drug-resistant TB.  This is beneficial to regional TB programs in Africa as it can ultimately reduce the risk of transmission and give information on which strains of bacteria are circulating—and where, for instance, drug-resistant ones are expanding.

“Turnaround time is important. Some standard culture-based testing methods for TB can take up to two months and conventional molecular assays are limited in identifying drug resistance. To overcome this, Illumina and Genoscreen combined expertise to make available the combined use of GenoScreen Deeplex Myc-TB assay and the Illumina NGS platforms to more effectively detect drug resistance mutations and help combat multidrug-resistant TB,” Belinda Ngongo, Director Illumina’s Global Health function.

“We also recently launched the Illumina Global Health Access Initiative to drive equitable access to our technology through the provision of discounted prices for a range of sequencing applications, including drug resistance profiling in tuberculosis,” Ms Ngongo said.

Tuberculosis remains a major global health threat.  According to the World Health Organisation, with 36% of all TB deaths occurring in Africa, failure to invest in the TB response is set to take a formidable toll on African countries. In South Africa alone, which is listed among the WHO’s 30 high-burden TB countries, the rate is about eight times higher, with 852 cases per 100,000 people, according to a recent study in The Lancet. 1

The number of TB cases not responding to standard drugs is on the rise, and if a patient doesn’t complete their course of treatment, it often results in multi-drug-resistant TB.


The state of tuberculosis in South Africa: what does the first national tuberculosis prevalence survey teach us? – The Lancet Infectious Diseases 1

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