South Africa's first survey to assess the incidence of tuberculosis in the country has been commissioned by the national Health Department, and will enrol an estimated 55 000 participants.
Data collection will be done in 110 clusters across all nine provinces, having begun in KwaZulu-Natal in August 2017, and is scheduled to conclude in Gauteng in November this year.
The survey will take place in the Western Cape between June and July.
Results are expected to be announced next year.
The survey is being conducted by the South African Medical Research Council, the Human Sciences Research Council (HSRC) and the National Institute for Communicable Diseases.
Health Department deputy director-general for HIV/Aids, TB, maternal, child and women’s health Dr Yogan Pillay said: “The TB prevalence survey that covers the whole country is long overdue.
"It will not only provide an estimate of South Africa’s true TB burden, but it will also provide invaluable information to strengthen South Africa’s response needed to stop and end TB in our lifetime.”
According to the department, TB is the leading cause of death in South Africa, and 2014 data revealed that 8.4% of deaths nationally were attributed to the disease.
The 2015 data estimated that 454000 people developed TB, while 300 000 were treated for the disease, and of those patients only 252000 were successfully treated and an estimated 19500 were lost to follow-up.
The Health Department said many people were not fully aware of the signs and symptoms of TB, and as a result the disease was diagnosed at an advanced stage when medical intervention was sought. About a third of patients diagnosed with TB do not start treatment and are regarded as “missing” cases.
Co-principal investigator of the survey Professor Martie van der Walt said: “The findings will be a landmark event in the epidemiology of TB in South Africa.
The results will influence response strategies, programmes and interventions to build on the existing successes in response to managing the TB epidemic.”
HSRC principal investigator Dr Sizulu Moyo said the survey would also provide information on how people who might have TB seek care in South Africa.
“The survey targets everyone 15 years and older in the selected areas. We encourage all who are invited to participate fully.”
HSRC field workers, identifiable through their attire and logos, are visiting randomly selected households to invite eligible community members to take part. Participation is voluntary and confidentiality is protected.