Moxafrica has been working in North Korea (DPRK) since 2016 with our local partner, the Korean Red Cross Foundation (KRCF).
We immediately recognised North Korea to be a suitable location for our work because of its local tuberculosis epidemic and also its reported high rates of drug-resistance. What’s more, its Ministry of Health is so far the only national department anywhere in the world that has taken the Ugandan data seriously enough to invest in its own investigative research.
One reason for this is that moxibustion is already used as a therapy in Koryo medicine and there is a strong cultural affinity to the mugwort plant (from which moxa floss is refined). Because of this, despite the fact that the approaches we use are quite different from the traditional moxa techniques in Koryo medicine, introducing this protocol was relatively straightforward. Over four visits, Moxafrica personnel have trained over 140 healthcare workers in the moxibustion protocol (and also many in the M-Test [Mukaino Method]).
With our partners the KRCF, we helped set up two studies that were conducted by the Ministry of Public Health and its Clinical Research Institute. These were intended to measure the efficacy of moxibustion as an adjunctive therapy for treating TB in the DPRK – especially conscious of the challenge of MDR-TB.
As such, the first study looked at the original complete TB protocol as used in Japan (bi-lateral ST36 + Dr. Hara loin points) as an adjunctive therapy for people with multi drug-resistant disease (MDR-TB). This study’s important data are analysed here (Results of research – see section on First DPRK study).
The second study looked at daily bi-lateral moxa at St36 only as a prophylactic in individuals in close contact with known infectious TB cases – which has taken Moxafrica’s research into an extra dimension of tuberculosis disease. The results of this study are here (Results of research – section on Second DPRK study).
Our long terms goals naturally depend on the results of these studies. With positive results emerging, we need to interest other researchers and stakeholders in them with a view to their being further tested on an urgent basis given what they imply.
We also hope to assist the KRCF and other relevant bodies in rolling out this protocol nationally, including supporting or assisting in the development of sustainable moxa production of quality floss. In the meantime geopolitics sadly appears to be making its own impact on the North Korean TB epidemic. The Global Fund (which has supplied drugs and diagnostics for the treatment of both TB and malaria in the country) has cut off all its support, and support from the WHO also now appears to be sadly lacking. This leaves TB patients in the country at enormous risk, meaning that moxa really could act as a stop-gap intervention by the MoH, especially given the MoH’s own data. Moxafrica is committed to doing all it can to offer help in what is still emerging as a humanitarian crisis.