Number Of New Active TB Cases Increases From 2007 To 2008, WHO Says

The WHO’s Stop TB Department released data on Thursday at the 40th Union World Conference on Lung Health indicating that the number of new active TB cases worldwide rose from 9.27 million in 2007 to 9.4 million in 2008, Reuters reports. Experts, who were gathered for the conference in Cancun, Mexico, “called for more research funding to develop better diagnostic tests, vaccines and drugs for tuberculosis, which killed 1.8 million people around the world last year,” according to the news service.

“With the exception of Pfizer Inc’s rifabutin, a drug used to treat tuberculosis for those with drug-resistant HIV/AIDS, there have been no newly licensed drugs for TB in 40 years,” Reuters writes.

“Wouldn’t one think that the largest killer of any single infection deserves better, newer tools?” asked Lee Reichman of the Global Tuberculosis Institute at the New Jersey Medical School. “In the pipeline are two experimental drugs and nine vaccines for TB, which the experts said would need funding to push into clinical trials,” according to the news service (Ee Lyn, 12/3).

Increases “in funding for tuberculosis research tapered off in 2008,” according to a report, released Thursday, by the Treatment Action Group, an HIV and TB think tank, Nature’s blog “The Great Beyond” reports. The report showed that the percent of government funding for TB research and development dropped and the percentage of philanthropic donations increased, with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation donating $165 million last year (Borrell, 12/3). “Between 2006 and 2007, investment in TB research rose by $56 million – to a total of $474 million. But between 2007 and 2008, investment rose by just $36 million to $510 million,” Reuters writes.

Experts also discussed “a highly sensitive blood or urine test for TB [that] could become a reality” and replace the current test, which is 100 years old and misses up 70 percent of TB cases, the news service writes. Jeremiah Chakaya of the Kenya Medical Research Institute noted, “A lot of people die before a TB diagnosis is even made.”

But because of “the lack of funding, it is unlikely such a test will reach the market before 2015,” Reuters writes. Mark Harrington, executive director of the Treatment Action Group, said, “With current investment rates, millions of people will continue to suffer and die unnecessarily of TB because the world stood by and refused to revitalize desperately needed TB research funding,” Reuters reports (12/3).

Reuters also compiled a factbox on tuberculosis (Ee Lyn, 12/3).

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