Tuberculosis (TB) remains a concern in Cambodia despite a steady decline in mortality and infection rates – with many cases remaining undiagnosed and causing active community transmission, according to a senior official at the US Agency for International Development (USAID) Cambodia.

Nancy Eslick, mission director at USAID Cambodia, said TB remained one of the world’s deadliest infectious diseases, and that Cambodia was one of the highest TB-burden countries in the world.

While the country’s TB incidence and death rate has steadily decreased in the last decade, many TB cases remain undetected and undiagnosed, which leads to sustained transmission in the community.

She reiterated USAID’s commitment to helping Cambodia reduce the burden of TB through improved access to high quality diagnosis and treatment.

USAID on February 14 provided to the National Centre for Tuberculosis and Leprosy Control (CENAT) Truenat diagnostic machines which help detect and identify multi-drug resistant TB in Cambodia. The machines produce a rapid and highly accurate TB diagnosis so that patients can begin treatment sooner.

“These Truenat diagnostic machines will support the National TB Programme (NTP) with TB case finding efforts at health centres and in the community. We are proud of our partnership with the NTP and together we can reach the goal of ending TB in Cambodia by 2030,” USAID said in a press statement.

CENAT director Huot Chan Yuda told The Post on February 16 that about a third of Cambodians who were still suffering from Tuberculosis (TB) were yet to receive a diagnosis and treatment, which meant there was continued, active transmission in the community.

Chan Yuda said that CENAT provides care, diagnosis and treatment to nearly 30,000 TB patients annually.

In 2018, CENAT provided care, diagnosis and treatment to 28,464 TB patients. In 2019 there were 30,148 patients and 29,999 patients in 2020, which is a slight decrease compared to 2019.

“Despite the Covid-19 pandemic, TB research, diagnosis and treatment activities continue in accordance with the Ministry of Health’s guidelines . . . with the active participation of civil society organisations and our health workers,” he said.

According to a global report on TB released in 2021 by the World Health Organisation, Cambodia has an estimated 274 TB cases per 100,000 people, of which there are 20 deaths.