Number Of New TB Infections Fall, But Drug Resistance, Lack Of Funding Could Slow Progress, WHO Reports

“New tuberculosis [TB] infections dropped 2.2 percent worldwide last year, but with nearly nine million new infections, the World Health Organization said TB remains a massive problem that could worsen if countries shortchange funding to fight it,” Reuters reports (Steenhuysen, 10/17). “In a new report issued Wednesday, the U.N. agency estimated there were about 8.7 million new cases of TB last year, down from about 8.8 million in 2010,” and “[t]he number of deaths was unchanged at about 1.4 million — making it the second-leading killer among infectious diseases after AIDS,” the Associated Press writes (Cheng, 10/17). “The number of people becoming ill with tuberculosis has been falling steadily for roughly a decade after a surge in the 1990s,” but “those numbers are still huge, and only 19 percent of those infected with forms of the disease that are resistant to multiple tuberculosis drugs are being diagnosed, the WHO estimated,” according to the Wall Street Journal (McKay, 10/18). BBC News notes the report “warned of ‘persistently slow progress’ in treating tuberculosis which is resistant to antibiotics” (Gallagher, 10/17).

“Globally, some 3.7 percent of new cases of TB and 20 percent of previously treated cases are multi-drug resistant, up from two percent in 2000,” Nature’s “News Blog” notes, adding, “An estimated nine percent of these cases are [extensively drug-resistant], now reported in 84 countries” (Phillips, 10/17). However, “[n]ew or re-purposed TB drugs, as well as new regimens to treat drug-sensitive or drug-resistant TB, are advancing in clinical trials and regulatory reviews, according to the report,” Inter Press Service writes (McHaney, 10/17). “But there is not enough money to pay for the new tools that are needed,” Guardian health editor Sarah Boseley states in her “Global Health Blog,” noting, “The report talks of ‘critical funding gaps for research and development.’ $2 billion a year is needed, but in 2010, the funding gap was $1.4 billion” (10/17). “‘We are now at a crossroads between TB elimination within our lifetime, and millions more TB deaths,’ Mario Raviglione, director of the World Health Organization’s Stop TB Partnership, said in [a] statement,” Bloomberg Businessweek reports (Hallam, 10/17). “To address this, WHO is calling for targeted international donor funding and continued investments by countries themselves to safeguard recent gains and ensure continued progress,” according to the U.N. News Centre (10/17).

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