New control strategy cuts TB rates in China by a third – WHO

New control strategy cuts TB rates in China by a third – WHO

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China – one the world’s largest countries affected by tuberculosis – has seen a 30 per cent drop in the occurrence of the disease since the introduction of a new control strategy in the last decade, putting it on track to meet the worldwide goal of cutting in half the incidences of the illness by 2015, the United Nations health agency said today.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), an analysis in 2000 of the Directly Observed Therapy Shortcourse (DOTS) – introduced to half the country’s population in 1991 – not only demonstrated the strategy’s effectiveness but also provided a powerful argument for the need to expand it across China.

DOTS, the internationally recommended strategy to control TB, combines five elements: political commitment, microscopy services, drug supplies, surveillance and monitoring systems, and the use of highly efficacious treatment regimes with direct observation of treatment.

While hailing the progress, WHO cautioned that major challenges remain ahead as TB remains a significant public health problem in China, which has 1.4 million new cases a year – second only to India.

“By building on the successes of the past decade, and by providing all of its more than 1 billion people with access to high-quality treatment, China could make a major contribution to the global control of tuberculosis,” said Dr. Christopher Dye, WHO’s lead investigator in the recent analysis.

Dr. Shigeru Omi, Regional Director of WHO’s Western Pacific Region, commended China for its commitment to tackling tuberculosis but pointed out that “several obstacles remain, and these should, and can, be surmounted.”

World leaders meeting at a UN summit in 2000 adopted the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), pledging to cut the rate of deadly diseases such as TB in half by 2015. The Chinese Government’s National Tuberculosis Plan provides for DOTS to be expanded to 100 per cent of the country by next year.

“WHO is pleased to support China in its efforts,” said Dr. Dye, “and looks forward to seeing the country reach – and surpass – its Millennium Development Goal for slashing TB prevalence in the years ahead.”