By Asker Sultanov
BISHKEK -- The US government has released a new textbook designed to educate Kyrgyz medical professionals and students on identifying, treating and preventing the spread of tuberculosis (TB).
The US Agency for International Development (USAID) has been working with a group of international and Kyrgyz specialists for three years to develop the new textbook, which examines country- and region-specific features for fighting the disease.
"The new textbook will assist in improving the knowledge base for students in medical schools throughout the country and will thus allow medical workers access to modern data and information to identify and treat TB in this country," Turat Makenbaev, media assistant at the US Embassy in Bishkek, told Caravanserai.
More than $60,000 (4.1 million KGS) was spent to develop and publish the Russian-language textbook as part of the USAID Defeat TB Project.
The process of developing the textbook started three years ago in Kyrgyzstan, Rakhat Jolurova, a specialist in the Defeat TB Project in Bishkek, told Caravanserai.
The authors of the textbook are local phthisiology (TB treatment) specialists, other physicians and a specialist from the World Health Organisation (WHO), she said.
On February 8, USAID delivered 2,200 copies of the new textbook to the Kyrgyz Health Ministry and the Ministry of Education and Science.
"Our [medical] students should be up to date and know what is being created in the world," Aelita Ibrayeva, chief specialist of the Health Ministry's Administration for Organising Medical Assistance and Drug Policy, told Caravanserai.
Copies of the new book have so far reached the Kyrgyz State Medical Academy, the Kyrgyz-Russian Slavic University, the Osh State University, the Kyrgyz State Medical Institute for Retraining and Advanced Studies, and the Scientific Medical Library of the Ministry of Health, Jolurova said.
The Kyrgyz State Medical Academy in Bishkek received the textbook February 16, said Gulnura Turdumambetova, chief of the school's phthisiology department.
"It's already in the library," she told Caravanserai. "Our students have been informed that the new book has arrived."
Although TB morbidity and mortality rates have fallen in recent years in Kyrgyzstan, the country registers about 5,500 new cases of the disease every year, Jolurova said. Of those, 400 TB patients die per year.
The main preventive measure in fighting the disease is finding TB patients quickly, which has become possible because of new TB treatment preparations and strategies, she said.
"USAID is working with the Kyrgyz government to limit the spread of the disease by modernising laboratories, introducing new treatment models, providing social support to patients and reforming the healthcare system to improve TB-fighting services," Makenbaev said.
Still, the main problem has been the deficient skills of Kyrgyz-trained physicians, Jolurova said.
"The specialists are trained on old textbooks from the 1990s, which do not meet modern standards," she said. "Graduates of [Kyrgyz] medical schools do not know the modern situation with TB and thus cannot effectively treat it."
"The textbooks on phthisiology were obsolete," Ibrayeva said. "In the past few years, there has been a great change in diagnosis of TB, new standards have appeared, and new treatment and diagnosis methods based on these standards have been discovered."
"For these reasons, it has become essential to take a new look at the textbooks studied by students in Kyrgyz medical schools and to introduce a training process meeting international standards," she said.
"In the 20 years I have been working in the department, this is the first time I have seen a textbook where there is a history of the development of the phthisiology treatment service in Kyrgyzstan," Turdumambetova said.
The book is "richly illustrated", she said, and provides considerable information about national and international programmes to fight TB.
"The advantage of this textbook is its illustrations," Jolurova agreed.
"Every subject is covered with illustrations, every cell drawn, and the illustrations are very clear and precise," she said, adding that "Live examples were used as illustrations in the textbook [and] the pictures [were] taken from the authors' practices."
The book describes an approach for treating patients with a resistant form of TB using WHO recommendations, Jolurova said.
"The new textbook on phthisiology for the first time included information and analysis of issues of fighting TB in Kyrgyzstan and Central Asia," she said. "The textbook corresponds to leading international experience and contains the very latest information about TB."
"The textbook has the modern epidemiology," Turdumambetova said. "In a word, the textbook is magnificent."