Preventing TB through Unity — A Myanmar story

In Myanmar’s Yangon region, trained volunteers visited households of TB patients registered with the Myanmar Medical Association (MMA) to conduct symptom screening of household contacts, they would then be referred to a network of private centers for AI-augmented chest X-ray screenings. The volunteers also assisted with sputum collection for these household contacts.

As with the rest of the world, last year, TB activities were delayed in Myanmar due to the pandemic. However, by August 2020, MMA medical volunteers were out screening and contact tracing for suspected cases in households of TB-positive patients, using an AI-augmented chest X-ray screening device.

Here is a real-life patient story on how volunteers and doctors associated with MMA were able to play a role in contact tracing as soon as the lockdowns were eased.

Mg Htet Myat Aung*, 21, lives with his parents, sister and grandfather in Thaketa township in the Yangon region. He was clinically diagnosed with TB as the microbiological testing of his sputum was indicated to be Negative for TB by both Gene Xpert and smear microscopy. Soon after, on 6th August 2020, he was initiated on anti-TB treatment from MMA TB GP clinic in Thaketa

An MMA TB REACH Project volunteer visited Htet Myat’s home after he started his Anti-TB treatment. The volunteer undertook symptoms screening and TB health education for Myat’s household members. He then referred all of them for AI-augmented chest X-ray screening at the local center. Myat’s 72 year old grandfather, U Mya Than*, with a history of anti-TB treatment more than 10 years earlier, was screened positive through AI interpretation of chest X-rays. That, coupled with clinical indications of TB such as having a persistent cough for more than 2 weeks and his weight, helped the volunteer recognize the need for immediate action. Under the supervision of the MMA clinic’s general physician, the volunteer collected sputum from Htet’s grandfather. Based on the results of his sputum smear and Gene Xpert, the MMA GP got started on Mya Than’s anti-TB treatment on the same day.

Both Myat and his grandfather took medication regularly till the end of the course. The private GP supervised them throughout the treatment with the assistance of a community volunteer for routine follow-up sputum examination, regular delivery of anti-TB drugs and encouragement for adhering to the treatment even during the COVID-19 crisis.

As a result, both the index & the contact TB patients successfully completed their anti-TB treatment in February 2021.

MMA volunteer conducting contact investigation in Yangon
MMA volunteers conducting house visits

Under the Stop TB Partnership’s TB REACH Wave 7 project, the MMA TB Project has been collaborating with PATH Myanmar to implement activities in 10 townships of Yangon Region, Myanmar since January 2020. The project’s theme is to increase TB case detection in Yangon region using AI-augmented X-ray screening for contact tracing.

*Names changed to protect patient privacy

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