TB testing, reporting still lagging in PHL due to pandemic

Medical illustration of drug-resistant Mycobacterium tuberculosis bacteria via US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention/Antibiotic Resistance Coordination and Strategy Unit

ONLY 13% of the 2022 target for bacteriologic testing of presumptive tuberculosis (TB) patients was reached as of June, showing that testing for the disease still lags two years into pandemic, according to data from the Department of Health (DoH).  

The DoH’s Integrated Tuberculosis Information System showed that just 446,552 presumptive TB patients were tested out of the 3,454,259 patients targeted by the Philippine Strategic TB Elimination Plan (PhilSTEP) for 2022.  

“Let’s refocus and consider that it’s not only COVID-19 (coronavirus disease 2019) that we should look at. Let’s look back at our interventions and strategies and intensify them to make sure we’re active in reporting and case findings,” said Dr. Imelda M. Mateo, president of the Philippine College of Chest Physicians, at an Aug. 23 webinar.  

PhilSTEP’s screening strategies, which include active case finding, are already in place and testing in all health facilities complies with mandatory notification laws.  

“For reporting and notification, we’re lagging, and it really suffered because of the pandemic because we lost the constant follow-ups from our patients,” she said at the event hosted by the Philippine College of Physicians for National Lung Month.  

The overall number of TB cases reported to the government as of June is 210,534, or 43% of the 2022 target of 493,325 cases.   

The National Tuberculosis Program’s 2021 report highlighted how the pandemic-caused disruption of services reversed previous gains — in 2020, about 152,000 fewer people with TB were detected compared to 2019 due to lower testing rates. 

The Philippines ranks fourth among the eight countries that accounted for two-thirds of total TB cases globally, according to the World Health Organization’s Global Tuberculosis Report 2020.  

“We already have good tools and strategies but we have to ensure implementation again. We will have to double up and make it more efficient,” Dr. Mateo said. — Brontë H. Lacsamana