DHAKA, July 27, 2020 – Today, Ambassador Earl R. Miller visited the 250-bed Tuberculosis (TB) Hospital in Shyamoli, Dhaka to observe how U.S. government-provided GeneXpert machines can detect COVID-19 within 45 minutes and handed over equipment to improve diagnosis of multi-drug resistant TB (MDR-TB).
The U.S. government, through the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), has provided more than $100 million over the last ten years to support the National TB Control Program to reduce the TB burden in Bangladesh. Since March 2020, The United States Embassy has also extended financial and technical support to complement the Government of Bangladesh’s COVID-19 readiness and response efforts.
During the visit, Ambassador Miller observed how the NTP uses the GeneXpert machines to complete COVID-19 tests at the hospital within 45 minutes, allowing physicians to begin treatment for COVID-19 positive patients without delay. USAID previously provided 74 GeneXpert machines to the Government of Bangladesh for TB testing, which are now also being used to test for COVID-19. The GeneXpert system is produced by Cepheid, a California-based company, and is capable of on demand tests for a range of diseases, including TB and COVID-19. Ambassador Miller met medical technologists at the hospital laboratory who received U.S.-supported training to develop their skills to effectively use the GeneXpert machines for COVID-19 testing.
Although the COVID-19 pandemic has recently demanded the world’s attention, TB remains the leading cause of death by a single infectious disease globally and a top cause of death in Bangladesh. To improve the diagnosis of MDR-TB Ambassador Miller also handed over two mycobacteria growth indicator tube (MGIT) machines to NTP.
The U.S. government was one of the first donors to mobilize funds to support Bangladesh’s COVID-19 readiness and response efforts, contributing over $56.5 million from all agencies so far, including nearly $37 million from USAID for development and humanitarian assistance. This assistance strengthens the COVID-19 testing capacity of Bangladesh’s laboratories and laboratory staff; improves the care of COVID-19 patients; reduces and controls the spread of the infection; increases public knowledge; and dispels myths and misconceptions about the disease.
The U.S. government, through USAID, has provided more than $7 billion in development assistance to Bangladesh since 1971, including more than $1 billion in health-related support. In 2019, USAID provided over $200 million to improve the lives of people in Bangladesh through programs that expand food security and economic opportunity, improve health and education, promote democratic institutions and practices, protect the environment, and increase resilience to climate change.