Project LIGHT increases the number of TB cases diagnosed at test sites
Project LIGHT, which introduced LED-based fluorescent microscopy (LEDFM) at 200 medical colleges across India, resulted in the detection of 5,495 more new sputum smear-positive TB cases in 2012 than in 2011. The project managed by The Union South-East Asia Office (USEA) was funded by a Stop TB Partnership–WHO TB REACH Wave-2 grant.
In 2010, the World Health Organization (WHO) recommended LEDFM as an alternative to Ziehl-Neesen microscopy because it offers faster, more accurate diagnosis of tuberculosis; and India's Revised National TB Control Programme (RNTCP) committed to phasing in this technology in its 12,800 designated microscopy centres. Project LIGHT (LED Fluorescent Microscopy In Gaining TB Cases in High workload Teaching Hospitals) was designed by The Union, which is working in collaboration with the RNTCP and the National Task Force for the Involvement of Medical Colleges to bring the new technology to medical colleges. As tertiary health care centres, India's medical colleges play an important role in the TB care network, diagnosing 10% of all smear-positive TB cases over the past three years (2009–12).
Project LIGHT placed LEDFM at medical college microscopy centres selected by the RNCTP because of their high workloads. In addition to providing the technology, the project included building the capacity of medical, technical and laboratory staff to provide health and TB services to their communities. LIGHT also worked with local RNTCP programme staff to ensure that all patients diagnosed at the implementing microscopy centres were transferred to TB treatment services.
Along with the increased number of cases detected, another measure of success for Project LIGHT has been the cost- effectiveness of this achievement. In funding proposals, TB REACH specified that the cost of each additional positive case detected should be less than US$ 350. Through Project LIGHT, the costs have so far averaged US$ 175 per additional positive case detection, including the capital investment of procuring and installing the microscopes. With one implementing quarter of the project yet to be completed, this average cost will fall even further by the end of the project.
Dr Nevin Wilson, Director of The Union South-East Asia Office, said the partners were very pleased with the success of the project. "This technology ultimately translates into beneficial measures for patients on multiple fronts – in terms of health, money and time", he said.
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