A new study conducted by The Australian National University (ANU) has identified several risk factors that can delay and/or alter the course of treatment for people with tuberculosis (TB), making a full recovery more difficult.
Some of these risk factors include diabetes, alcohol use, smoking, illicit drug use, mental illness, HIV positive status and homelessness.
Although Australia is fortunate to have some of the lowest TB rates in the world, tailored strategies to support people with TB who also have these identified risk factors could eliminate the disease altogether – lowering rates to less than 1 case per million people.
Lead authors, Dr Nathan Coorey and Dr Liam Kensitt suggest that implementing treatments that are two-pronged in approach – treating the TB plus the underlying risk factor - will result in patient-centred care that leads to better outcomes for the individual and the wider community.
Dr Coorey explained, “These risk factors are independently associated with significant morbidity, mortality and an impairment to wellbeing. Reducing the impact of these risk factors should have improved health outcomes for the broad community, including persons living with TB.”
“Recognition of risk factors allows health practitioners to provide patient centred care, link to appropriate services, provide referrals, and promote treatment adherence which all contribute to better individual care, but should also contribute to TB elimination efforts.”
Dr Kensitt added, “If public health strategies are able to identify persons with TB who are also contending with one or more of these risk factors, and enhanced support can be provided during treatment, we believe the prospect for long-term outcomes will be enhanced.”
“Ensuring that clinicians are aware of these risk factors, putting processes in place to identify persons at risk of poor TB treatment outcomes, and having tailored treatment programs for people who are identified as needing the additional support will put us on the path to eliminating TB in Australia".
Dr Coorey and Dr Kensitt conducted this research as part of the Population Health research project that students undertake in year 3 and 4 of the Doctor of Medicine and Surgery program.