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Report shows more TB research needed

Patients sit on beds at the National Centre for Tuberculosis and Leprosy Control in Phnom Penh’s Chamkarmon district in 2013.
Patients sit on beds at the National Centre for Tuberculosis and Leprosy Control in Phnom Penh’s Chamkarmon district in 2013. Heng Chivoan

Report shows more TB research needed

A recently published report has found that despite years of high incidence rates of tuberculosis in the Kingdom, research priorities for halting the deadly disease are still being neglected.

The report, published last week in the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine’s journal Health and Policy Planning, says that with funding for TB research decreasing, and the disease burden persisting, the need for increased investment in research is clear. But justification for such investment is questionable when countries, like Cambodia, fail to conduct meaningful research resulting in health care improvements.

In 2015, there were a total of 35,638 cases of TB in Cambodia. However, the study found that high-priority aspects of the disease – such as TB-HIV co-infections, childhood TB and multidrug resistant TB – were not being adequately researched. Coordination among funding organisations, policymakers and researchers is critical, it says.

More than 70 percent of the research in Cambodia was not in line with policymakers’ priorities, according to the study. “Without better coordination, I could see a major problem. As funding is getting more and more restricted with Cambodia transitioning to a lower-middle income country, priority research areas are getting neglected,” said one of the authors, Mishal S Khan, an assistant professor of health policy and systems research at the London School.

“At this time, it is more important than ever to make sure that every amount spent on research or TB control is as effective as possible.”

One way for Cambodia to address this issue could be for policymakers, such as the WHO, NGOs and the government, to establish a platform where they discuss and agree on research priorities, Khan added.

Those research priorities could then be laid out in a public document to guide local and international researchers conducting research in the future.

“It would help to ensure that funding devoted to research in Cambodia is relevant and useful to the country,” he said.

Dr Mao Tan Eang, director of the National Centre for Tuberculosis and Leprosy Control, declined to comment yesterday.

Dr Katsunori Osuga, a TB expert with WHO Cambodia, would only say through a spokeswoman that there are two technical working groups meeting regularly with departments, institutions and partners to not only discuss and plan technical issues, but also research, he explained.

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