Key medical figures:
- 130 patients treated for kala azar
- 27 patients began DR-TB treatment
People in Georgia who contract kala azar, or visceral leishmaniasis, now have greater access to quality care and shorter, more tolerable treatment.
Kala azar is a parasitic disease that is almost always fatal without treatment. It is transmitted through bites from infected sandflies. Symptoms include fever, weight loss, enlargement of the liver and spleen, anaemia and immune-system deficiencies. It is a neglected disease, and treatment until recently has been painful, requiring multiple injections which caused toxic side effects.
The disease is mainly found in Bangladesh, India, Ethiopia, Sudan, South Sudan and Brazil. However, incidence of kala azar has steadily risen in Georgia. Around 180 people are diagnosed with the disease each year, many of them children.
In 2011, Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) began working with Tbilisi’s Parasitological Hospital to improve detection of kala azar with rapid diagnostic tests, and to introduce a better drug, liposomal amphotericin B, to treat it. This treatment regimen is far easier for patients: they receive the drug for four days and need only remain in hospital for a maximum of 10 days rather than the month that was required with the previous medication.
After completing staff training, the MSF team handed over the kala azar programme to the national authorities in 2012, with a final donation of liposomal amphotericin B.
Handing over the tuberculosis (TB) programme
Since 2010 MSF has run a TB programme focusing on the treatment of patients with multidrug-resistant TB (MDR-TB) in the autonomous republic of Abkhazia. MDR-TB is a strain of the disease that does not respond to standard TB drugs. Treatment for MDR-TB takes up to two years and often causes painful side effects. MSF continues to treat patients while it assists with the development of the Abkhazian National TB Programme, which will manage all TB activities in future.
Access to care in Sukhumi
In 1993, during the civil conflict in Abkhazia, MSF began a programme delivering medical services to a community in Sukhumi who were without access to healthcare. During 2012, MSF continued to provide medical care, including surgery and eye care, to 64 patients.
No. staff end 2012: 44
Year MSF first worked in the country: 1993