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Opinion Pieces Discuss WHO’s Exclusion Of TB From Its Priority List Of Antibiotic-Resistant Bacteria

STAT: The World Health Organization made a big mistake on TB. It must fix it
José Luis Castro, executive director of the International Union Against Tuberculosis and Lung Disease

“…[The WHO’s global priority list of antibiotic-resistant bacteria] contains an enormous flaw that requires immediate correction. The experts compiling the list failed to include Mycobacterium tuberculosis, the bacteria that cause tuberculosis (TB), even though TB kills more people than any other infectious disease and has developed such extensive resistance to antibiotics that WHO itself labels it ‘a crisis.’ WHO’s rationale for excluding TB from consideration is that ‘it is already a globally established priority for which innovative new treatments are urgently needed.’ In other words, TB was not considered for inclusion in a list of global priorities because it is a global priority. This explanation defies reason. … [T]he exclusion of TB from the global priority list is a sudden broadside to the TB effort. … Rather than arbitrarily limiting the scope of the list, the WHO should evaluate a broader range of pathogens — including viruses, fungi, and other microbes — that are increasingly drug-resistant, and revise the list to portray a more evidence-based picture of public health research priorities” (3/13).

STAT: WHO’s new priority list of antibiotic-resistant bacteria looks beyond the scourge of tuberculosis
Marie-Paule Kieny, assistant director general for health systems and innovation at the WHO

“…The absence of M. tuberculosis from the [WHO global priority list of antibiotic-resistant pathogens] sparked considerable criticism from the TB community. Some saw it as an oversight, others as an attempt to take funding and attention away from this important disease. It was neither. The WHO global priority list of antibiotic-resistant pathogens clearly states that TB ‘is already a globally established priority for which innovative new treatments are urgently needed.’ The goal of this report is to highlight research and development needs in addition to, and beyond, those directed toward antibiotic-resistant TB. … I urge researchers to turn their attention to antibiotic-resistant pathogens, such as Mycobacterium tuberculosis and those highlighted on the new priority list, so we can begin to curb alarming trends in antibiotic resistance in our hospitals and our communities. Moving forward, the WHO will continue to consult with the scientific community on the value of prioritizing other groups of pathogens using the same approach [it used to develop its priority bacteria list]. TB and other major infectious diseases, such as HIV and malaria, will remain global priorities and continue to be the focus of increased incentives for research and development. But we must also pay attention to other looming threats, so science can deliver effective treatments to all patients” (3/13).

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