Partners of the PreFIT project met in Kampala, Uganda.

The second PreFIT Annual Consortium Meeting took place in Kampala, Uganda from the 27th to the 29th of March, 2023. PreFIT is part of the EDCTP2 programme supported by the European Union and, under the coordination of Frank Cobelens from AIGHD, aims to validate assays for improved prediction of progression from latent tuberculosis infection (LTBI) to active tuberculosis (TB) disease.

The meeting kicked off on March 27th and saw the participation of international experts from AIGHD in the Netherlands, CISM in Mozambique, FIND in Switzerland, ISGlobal in Spain, Makerere University in Uganda, and Stellenbosch University (SU) in South Africa. The six partners met to share recent developments and evaluate better strategies to reach the objectives set by the PreFIT project.

With 10.6 million people who fell ill with Tuberculosis in 2021, and 1.6 million deaths, TB remains one of the leading causes of death worldwide. The data shows a clear need to double down on efforts to comply with the END TB strategy, adopted by the WHO with the aim of reducing TB incidence and TB mortality by 90% and 95% respectively by 2035, compared with 2015 levels. The end TB strategy is an ambitious but realistic goal that can be reached with the help of projects like PreFIT aiming at improving early TB detection and testing of new diagnostic tools.

As highlighted by Vinzeigh Leukes, from FIND “The PreFIT trial is currently assessing a new diagnostic tool to predict those patients who are exposed to TB and may go on to develop active TB. For those individuals who are identified, we can then initiate preventive TB therapy so that these patients don’t go on to develop active TB. This will assist in decreasing the numbers of patients who go on to develop active TB, as well as reduce transmission of TB.”

Moreover, as Marta Cossa –clinical coordinator at CISM in Mozambique- explained during the meeting: “the PreFIT study reaches out to the household contacts and these are the people who are benefitting the most from this study. They are followed up from latent tuberculosis to the development of active tuberculosis and this really has a major impact, not only on transmission patterns and trends, but it also helps for future public health policies and diagnostic tests that will better predict incipient tuberculosis.”

This year the PreFIT Annual Meeting concluded with a unique day dedicated to fostering collaboration between EDCTP2-funded projects. It included one day of joint activities organized with the Stool4TB project, an EDCTP2 fund program aiming at evaluating a new stool-based qPCR for diagnosis of tuberculosis in children and people living with HIV and CAGE-TB, a project aiming at improving TB screening by using a smartphone app that can detect a TB cough. On the 29th of March, PhD students involved in PreFIT, Stool4TB and CAGE-TB had the opportunity to present their research. It was then the turn of the Global Symposium on Tuberculosis. Five experts on Tuberculosis addressed the latest advances in TB diagnostics, pediatric TB, tuberculosis molecular bacterial load assay (TB-MBLA) and epigenetics in TB.

Grant Theron from SU and the Principal Investigator of PreFIT (as well as CAGE-TB) summarized the PreFIT annual consortium meeting as: “An invaluable opportunity to meet and reconnect face-to-face while reviewing crucial interim data that provides focus and a clear way forward as PreFIT enters its final stretch, aiming to provide data for a crucial World Health Organization review. The meeting also permitted many trainees across sites (and consortia) to network for the first time and have exciting side discussions to stimulate further collaborations that will grow beyond PreFIT.”

The pictures were taken during the PreFIT Annual Meeting of 2023 in Kampala, Uganda