Budget Cuts Could Lead To Slower Results on Tuberculosis Test for Drug-Resistant Strains

In a California Healthline Special Report, four public health experts discussed how Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s (R) proposed 10% across-the-board reduction at state agencies could impact tuberculosis control efforts.

The Special Report includes comments from:

  • Gil Chavez, deputy director of the California Department of Public Health;
  • Phil Griffin, president-elect of the National Tuberculosis Controllers Association and Kansas’ TB controller;
  • Marty Fenstersheib, Santa Clara’s health officer; and
  • Masae Kawamura, San Francisco’s director of TB control.

The number of TB cases in California declined 1.9% from 2006 to 2007, but the disease is on the rise in Alameda, San Francisco, San Mateo and Santa Clara counties.

Under the proposed funding cuts, officials would eliminate the use of a rapid screening test that identifies TB strains within 24 hours to help clinicians target treatment. The alternative culture-based method can take three weeks to produce results.

Chavez said patients can be begin treatment while awaiting results of the culture test, adding, “I think people need to be assured that we are taking our budget cuts very, very carefully and that we are going to do it in a way that does not compromise public safety at all.”

However, Griffin said the longer wait time increases the risk that individuals with drug-resistant forms of TB will continue to spread the disease.

“It’s certainly a step backwards, in particular for California,” Griffin said. He added, “We can be treating a patient for two months with drugs that are really doing them no good” (Rebillot, California Healthline, 4/16).

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