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TB epidemic ‘could flare in near future’

Publicação: 11 de janeiro de 2022

A student recently being attended to by a doctor from Trinity Care Foundation in Karnataka

The twin global challenges of COVID-19 and climate change monopolised the news agenda throughout the past year and will undoubtedly remain firmly in the public eye in 2022.

SciDev.Net spoke to a doctor and a scientist from these fields about their expectations for the year ahead and what progress must be made to tackle the parallel crises.

TB and COVID-19

Sushmita Roychowdhury is the director of pulmonology at Fortis Hospital in Kolkata, India. Since the beginning of the global pandemic in 2020, she has treated critically ill patients with COVID-19, helping them recover from the disease.

Roychowdhury believes that the COVID-19 vaccination strategy in India has been a game-changer in the country’s battle against the disease and possibly helped reduce “a wave to a ripple”.

However, she warns that in 2022, rising cases of drug-resistant tuberculosis — due to interruptions to programmes to combat the disease as a result of COVID-19 — is a matter of “real concern”.

Identification, isolation and treatment of TB patients must be achieved as completely as possible, says Roychowdhury. “Otherwise, it is another epidemic volcano waiting to erupt,” she adds.

With the appearance of newer, more rapidly transmissible COVID-19 variants such as Omicron, Roychowdhury hopes for COVID-19 vaccination programmes to be given priority in 2022 and made compulsory for all in India, including children.

“Our only prevention appears to be boosted immunity as a first line of defence to minimise risk of serious disease and for a pandemic to turn into an endemic, so that the world may once more feel safe enough to live in.”

Sushmita Roychowdhury, director of pulmonology, Fortis Hospital, Kolkata, India

She believes the Omicron variant will overshadow all previous variants given its rapid spread, but she is hopeful that the pandemic can end before the year 2022 does. In India, she expects COVID-19 booster doses to be rolled out for vulnerable populations within two months.

“Our only prevention appears to be boosted immunity as a first line of defence to minimise risk of serious disease and for a pandemic to turn into an endemic, so that the world may once more feel safe enough to live in,” Roychowdhury says. Until then, wearing face masks and physical distancing “will need to be our ways of life”, she adds.

‘Look to global South for climate science’

Laura Gallardo Klenner is a meteorologist from the University of Chile whose work focuses on urbanisation as both a problem and a solution to climate change. She expects 2022 will be a year in which climate science will continue to bear fruit.

The member and lead author of the Sixth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change is optimistic that new knowledge generated through interdisciplinary collaboration and civic participation will allow countries to better face climate change.

“A tremendous change that has been seen in science in less than a decade has been to be able to attribute extreme events to climate change,” she says. “In 2014 it wasn’t possible. Being able to prove this attribution will help society to be better prepared in 2022 and the coming years.”

Klenner believes political and social changes are needed to face the already inevitable effects of climate change in 2022.  The impacts of climate change around the world have been so overwhelming and surprising that “there is no other option but to start making decisions much closer to science,” she says.

“I would expect that [in 2022] all countries will show an immensely greater level of ambition than what we saw in Glasgow [at the COP26 climate summit in November, 2021],” Klenner said.

“The profound changes required to address the crises of today’s world (climate, biodiversity, energy, food security), will not happen without people’s participation.”  Wealthy countries must “put the resources in place to enable the needed energy transition” worldwide, she adds.

Finally, scientists must also rise to the challenge, Klenner believes. “Conventional science is no longer enough. Many of us who have had the privilege of studying the world have used the same lenses,” says Klenner.

“Other, new, totally different perspectives are needed. Climate change requires science from the global South, science with other priorities and other languages.”

This piece was produced by SciDev.Net’s Global desk.

Fonte: https://www.scidev.net/global/opinions/tb-epidemic-could-flare-in-near-future/