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March 24, 2015

Japan’s Innovative Technologies Contribute to Tuberculosis Control Throughout the World
March 24 is World TB Day

March 24 is World TB Day (1).

photoA diagnosis kit developed as part of the project “Establishment of Rapid Diagnostic Tools for Tuberculosis and Trypanosomiasis and Screening of Candidate Compounds for Trypanosomiasis” conducted in Zambia

TB stands for tuberculosis, an infectious disease that can be cured if a patient is given proper treatment. However, 9 million people fall ill and 11 million people (2) are killed every year. It is categorized as one of the “Three Major Infectious Diseases” along with HIV and malaria, and efforts have been made by the international community, but one-third of newly affected people are not able to be diagnosed or treated.

TB does not only affect developing countries. Even now, more than 20,000 people fall ill with TB annually in Japan. The incidence of TB (newly registered TB patient per 100,000 people) in Japan is 16.11. It is several times higher than in other developed countries. According to a definition by the World Health Organization, Japan is categorized as having a medium TB burden (more than 20 and less than 100 cases per 100,000 people).

To improve this situation, in July 2014, the “Stop TB Japan Action Plan” was renewed. It was first formed in 2008 by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare, the Japan Anti-Tuberculosis Association, the Stop TB Partnership and the Japan International Cooperation Agency. The plan aims for Japan to be categorized as a low TB burden country by 2020 (less than 10 cases per 100,000 people), and to contribute through Japan’s innovative technologies to the world’s TB control and achieve targets through the efforts of both the public and private sectors.

Newly developed diagnosis method is implemented in Afghanistan to support refugees

photoMedical personnel who do screening in “Tuberculosis Control Project in Afghanistan Phase 2.”

A TB quick diagnosis (detecting patients) method developed in Japan has been used in Afghanistan for refugees who were deported from other countries and are staying in a camp temporarily. Refugees are often forced to endure a severe situation and tuberculosis incidence is high. Therefore screening on the border is rather important. However, traditional diagnosis methods took time and it was not possible to give an accurate diagnosis while refugees were in the camp temporarily. But with the TB quick diagnosis method developed in Japan, accurate results can be acquired in one hour and it has become possible to encourage refugees to have medical treatment immediately in case of a positive result.

In Afghanistan, TB is considered one of the main causes of death. JICA has been supporting TB control in Afghanistan since the 1970s. After long disruptions during conflict periods, JICA restarted its TB countermeasure activities from the basics in 2002 and has been contributing since. The TB detection percentage and cure rate have been maintained at high levels. Now it is time to move on to the phase of finding patients through active methods such as the TB quick diagnosis method. Japan’s new diagnosis method has been contributing greatly.

Accurate, speedy and inexpensive TB diagnosis kit

The key to preventing spread is early detection and then early treatment. However, diagnosis is not possible in many cases in developing countries because of the high cost of medical examinations. In Zambia, one third of the residents are potentially infected with TB because of compromised immune systems caused by an HIV epidemic. Early detection is urgently needed in Zambia.

“Establishment of Rapid Diagnostic Tools for Tuberculosis and Trypanosomiasis and Screening of Candidate Compounds for Trypanosomiasis” is a project conducted by JICA for which Hokkaido University acts as the representative research institution. Applying the TB quick diagnosis method developed in Japan, the project has achieved the development of an accurate, speedy and inexpensive diagnosis kit. Evaluation tests are being conducted by the Ministry of Health of Zambia to approve the kit as an official method (4).

More effective research on TB control through the genome-wide analysis

photoTokyo University researchers perform genome analysis.

Thailand, categorized as a high TB burden country (more than 100 per 100,000 people), currently faces on a drug-resistant TB, and its diagnosis methods and more effective anti-TB drugs are expected. To solve these problems, JICA will soon start “The Project for Integrative Application of Human and Pathogen Genomic Information for Tuberculosis Control,” in which Tokyo University will act as the Japan’s research institution. This project plans to develop new genetic diagnosis methods and prediction system of treatment response by analyzing both humans and the pathogen genomic information. The results are expected to lead to applicable control not only in Thailand, but also around the world.

JICA has been also developing assistance for TB controls in Indonesia, Cambodia, Myanmar, Bangladesh, Kenya and other countries with grant aid and technical assistance cooperation. More than 2,200 people throughout 97 countries have participated in a training program in Japan on TB countermeasures including management and testing technique. JICA will continue working toward the end of the worldwide TB epidemic by using accumulated experiences and knowledge in developing countries and also Japan’s innovative technologies.

1.”World TB Day” refer to the day German Doctor Robert Koch delivered a speech announcing his discovery of the TB bacillus on March 24, 1882.
2. Not including TB with complications of HIV.
3. The TB incidence (newly registered TB patient per 100,000 people) of Japan is 5.2 times greater than that of the United States (3.1), 3.3 times greater than that of Germany (4.9) and 2.8 times greater than that of Australia (5.7).
4. An official method refers to a method designated by an international organization or nation or official test organization or institute, when detection of qualitative analysis and quantitation assay of component by culture is conducted in the sector of analytical chemistry and microbial culture.


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