Tuberculosis treatment strategy saves millions of lives over last 15 years – UN study

8 December 2009

A change of strategy for treating patients suffering from tuberculosis has cured 36 million people worldwide and saved up to 8 million lives over the last decade and a half, according to data released today by the United Nations World Health Organization (WHO).

A change of strategy for treating patients suffering from tuberculosis has cured 36 million people worldwide and saved up to 8 million lives over the last decade and a half, according to data released today by the United Nations World Health Organization (WHO).

“Fifteen years of TB investments are bringing visible results in terms of human lives saved,” said Director of the WHO Stop TB Department Mario Raviglione. “Together, national programmes, WHO, UNAIDS, the Global Fund and other partners have helped save millions of lives from TB.”

WHO attributes the success to Directly Observed Therapy, Short-course (DOTS), which was first developed in 1994 and later incorporated into the WHO Stop TB Strategy as its main component.

DOTS is a rigorous approach to tuberculosis treatment combining political commitment for increased and sustained financing, quality diagnosis and detection, standardized treatment with supervision and patient support, a secure drug supply and management system, a monitoring and evaluation system that measures impact.

The latest WHO update also shows continued progress on addressing the lethal combination of tuberculosis and HIV, with 200,000 more tuberculosis patients tested for HIV between 2007 and 2008, bringing the total tested to1.4 million. Of those who tested HIV positive, one-third benefited from life-saving HIV anti-retroviral therapy (ART).

“But the current pace of progress is far from sufficient to decisively target our goal of TB elimination,” stressed Dr. Raviglione.

In 2008, 1.8 million people died from tuberculosis, including half a million deaths associated with HIV, and many of those people were not enrolled on ART. Tuberculosis remains second only to HIV/AIDS in the number of people it kills.

“It is a disease that destroys lives, damages families and stifles development,” said Dr. Raviglione. “Without help to fill the $2 billion funding gap for TB care and control in 2010, the most vulnerable people will continue to miss the benefits so many others have seen.”

Tuberculosis is an infectious bacterial disease which commonly affects the lungs and is transmitted from person to person via droplets from the throat and lungs of people with the active respiratory disease. The symptoms of active tuberculosis are coughing, sometimes with sputum or blood, chest pains, weakness, weight loss, fever and night sweats.

 

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