by: Laura E. Perez, 1 April 2011.
Translated by Pedro A. Fanego Sea, Havana, Cuba.
The tuberculosis bacillus has infected one third of the world population and two million people die every year for that cause.
The current rate in Cuba is seven per every 100 000 inhabitants. It is very low, due to the development of control and treatment programs, indicated Dr. Antonio Marrero, member of the National Group of Respiratory Diseases, under the Ministry of Public Health.
He indicated that some of the actions are early diagnosis, performed by means of bacilloscopy, tests and cultivation of patients’ sputum. Today, molecular biology has become an additional, brand-new tool.
In the eve of the World Day against Tuberculosis the specialist pointed out that Cuba is one of the Latin American countries on the way to eradicate this ailment as a health problem.
Since 1971, the strategy recommended by the World Health Organization (WHO) for TB control is implemented in the country. It is known as direct surveillance treatment, where medical care and the required drugs are supplied to the patients free of charge.
The specialist explained that the disease main symptoms are respiratory, unremitting cough (for more than two weeks), associated to general symptoms like fever, anorexia, fatigue, loss of weight and night perspiration.
He also added that it is associated to AIDS, something that many call a mortal duet, because one accelerates the evolution of the other and both are related to immunodeficiencies.
Dr. Marrero remarked that tuberculosis becomes drug-resistant mainly as a consequence of partial or irregular treatments. Some patients fail to observe, what physicians strictly indicate to improve their condition.
Nowadays, there is no effective vaccine to prevent the disease. He remarked that BCG (Bacillus of Chalmette and Guerin), applied to newborn babies, protects them during 2 years from TB most serious forms, but it does not produce lifetime immunity.
The World Day against Tuberculosis is globally sponsored by the WHO and the International Union against Tuberculosis and Respiratory Diseases.
German bacteriologist Robert Koch discovered its causal agent, the tuberculosis bacillus on March 24 1882. As a result, he won the Nobel Prize in 1905. This was reportedly the first step toward the diagnosis and cure of the disease. Koch is regarded, next to Louis Pasteur, as the fathers of Bacteriology. He laid the foundations for contemporary medical microbiology. In addition, he was appointed head of the Hygiene Department of Berlin University in 1885. During this stage of university work, he discovered the first product effective in the cure of tuberculosis: tuberculin.