Kenya leads the way in child-friendly TB treatment

05 October 2016

Tuberculosis medication developed specifically for children will help reduce deaths from the disease which affects at least 1 million children a year globally.

A group of children in Kenya

Kenya has become the first country in the world to introduce child-friendly tuberculosis (TB) medicine. It is hoped that the roll-out of this medication, which began on 1st October, will drastically reduce the number of child TB deaths in the country.

Kenya has a high burden of TB. In 2015 nearly 7,000 infants and children were reported to have TB.  Moreover, TB is the most common cause of death of any infectious disease in the country. Worldwide, TB is also the biggest killer of people living with HIV.

The new medication, the first to meet the World Health Organization’s (WHO) 2010 guidelines for childhood TB treatment, comes in the correct doses for children, is strawberry flavoured and dissolves in water. This means it is easier for children to take.

Previously, bitter-tasting pills produced for adults would be cut up and given to children. This made proper administering of the treatment for the necessary six-month period very challenging and contributed to treatment failure and death.

The new treatment will be available for free at all public health facilities in Kenya.

"Now, with the appropriate treatments, we can make rapid progress in finding and treating children with TB so we can achieve a TB free generation," Kenya's health minister Cleopa Mailu said in a statement on Tuesday.

Another 18 countries are preparing to follow Kenya in rolling out this child-friendly TB medicine, providing treatment for an estimated 155,000 children with TB.

According to the WHO, at least 1 million children suffer from TB each year and 140,000 children die of the disease. Until now, a lack of market incentives hindered the development of TB medication for children, according to the TB Alliance who oversaw the development of this treatment.

Photo credit:
©iStock/Milan Lipowski Photos used for illustrated purposes only. They do not imply the health status of any person in the photo.