The country's first nation-wide tuberculosis survey has found around half the number
of TB infections predicted by the World Health Organization (WHO).
Health officials hailed the preliminary results as evidence of progress. However
they warned that advances made against the lethal disease could be lost to the spread
of the HIV virus, which has infected 2.6 percent of the adult population.
The results of the National TB and Prevalence Survey were presented to an international
conference on TB held in Phnom Penh on February 26. Dr Prap Jayavanth, a WHO consultant,
said it could take another ten years to bring TB under control.
"But with HIV/AIDS, the number of TB cases will increase and that will fuel
the epidemic. That's the biggest fear, especially in Cambodia," he said.
WHO estimates that around two-thirds of the population, some 8 million people, would
test positive for exposure to TB. Jayavanth said thousands of new infections occur
each year. While many of those exposed to TB will not contract the disease, it could
spread rapidly in patients with a compromised immune system.
The study concluded that improved treatment for TB, with medical workers directly
administering a two-month antibiotic regimen, had "reduced the prevalence rate
of the disease", but that reducing the rate of new infections would take more
"The thing about TB is that prevention is also intervention," said Jesse
Rattan, health sector coordinator for CARE Cambodia.
"The only way to stop that process is to treat people with TB. As you get the
prevalence down, there are fewer people to infect."
The survey found 24,710 cases of active TB infections. At least 17,200 were contagious
due to pulmonary infections, but health officials warned these numbers were low as
the current detection rate is only 55 percent.
The secretary of state at the Ministry of Health (MoH), Dr Mam Bun Heng, said the
work of 600 health centers around Cambodia offering TB treatment could improve that
He said clinics and hospitals had already achieved a cure rate of 85 percent, far
above the global average. However the country is still regarded as one of the 22
'high-burdened' nations, which struggle with the world's highest rates of TB infection.
The survey, which was designed to assess the scope of the disease, was carried out
by the MoH's TB Center, WHO and the Japan International Cooperation Agency.