Tuberculosis still remains a major killer of children. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), at least 1 million children suffer from TB each year and 140,000 children die of this preventable, treatable and curable disease. In 2015, Kenya reported nearly 7,000 cases of TB in infants and children, with those under age five at greatest risk of having severe forms of TB and dying from the disease.
The Ministry of Health, Kenya announced the launch of appropriately dosed, child-friendly tuberculosis (TB) medicines, making Kenya the first country in the world to roll out these products nationally. The improved medicines are easier for caregivers to give and for children to take, and are expected to help improve treatment and child survival from TB.
The treatments now being introduced are the first to meet the WHO’s guidelines for childhood TB treatment. They are not new drugs, but improved formulations that come in the correct doses, require fewer pills, are flavored and dissolve in water.
“Now, with the appropriate treatments, we can make rapid progress in finding and treating children with TB so we can achieve a TB free generation,” Kenya’s health minister Cleopa Mailu said in a statement.
TB is spread by bacteria when someone with untreated TB, often a family member, coughs or sneezes. Children who survive can become blind, deaf, paralyzed or mentally disabled.
The child-friendly drugs are the first products to meet the WHO’s 2010 guidelines for childhood TB treatment, with funding from UNITAID, which is hosted by the WHO.
“No child should die of TB, yet for too long, we have not had the medicines to mount a sustainable response against childhood TB,” UNITAID’s director of operations, Robert Matiru, said in the statement.
Some 155,000 children with TB are set to benefit across 18 countries that have already ordered the new medicines and are preparing to roll them out.