ACCRA, Scientists have developed a new drug for Tuberculosis (TB) which would reduce the length of treatment from the current 24-month period to nine.

Dr Paula I. Fujiwara, the Scientific Director of the International Union against TB and Lung Disease, at a media briefing in Accra, said the new treatment regimen was more effective than previous ones.

She said further researches were on-going, to produce other new TB drugs that would further reduce the treatment period to one month.

The briefing was part of the activities of the on-going 20th Africa Union Conference on Lung Health, being hosted by the Ministry of Health and the Ghana Society for the Prevention of Tuberculosis and Lung diseases (GSPT) in Accra.

She said considering the trend of multi-drug resistant TB, there was the need for scientists, researchers and pharmaceutical institutions to build stronger partnerships, for the development of new diagnostics, drugs and innovative technologies to combat the epidemic.

Africa, she said, had taken the lead to battle drug-resistant TB through strengthened research activities, and called on governments to support with sustained budgetary allocations for research and other purposes.

Dr Fujiwara said Africa’s challenge was however not the number of drugs developed, but rather awareness and knowledge of the disease as highly contagious, and the need to support each other to prevent its further spread by encouraging those affected to report early for diagnoses and treatment, rather than stigmatising them.

She said there was currently a huge missing gap with regards to the number of unreported TB cases in Africa, attributable partly to the issue of stigma, and there was an urgent need to find these missing cases in order to achieve the needed impact of ending the epidemic on the continent by 2035.

She appealed for an extensive media support in public campaigns and education on the free access to care and treatment of TB and other information on the disease, in order to end the epidemic by 2035.

She also spoke about the 3P-Project that involved a cocktail of drugs for the treatment of TB and therefore the need to Push, Pull and Pool together efforts, expertise and resources from all angles, to address the problems with regards to the development of sustainable regimen for curative purposes.

She said under the 3P- project, it was expected that some incentives be given to pharmaceutical companies to cover cost, to ensure lower prices of TB drugs.

Dr Muyabala Munachitombwe-Muna, the President of the Union Africa Region, stressed the need to intensify efforts to eliminate stigmatisation, which was the main cause for the present gap in the missing TB cases in Africa.

He said one of the major ways to address stigma, was to change the language used to describe and discuss TB, giving examples as TB Control, Suspected TB Patients and Deadly disease, which incriminated affected persons and presented them as some sort of criminals or outcasts, who must be made to face some kind of trials.

He said more public education must be carried out, to expand knowledge on available treatment, early diagnosis and care.