The World Health Organization (WHO) announced today that the fight against tuberculosis (TB) is paying off, with this year’s death rate nearly half of what it was in 1990, but 1.5 million still people died from the disease last year, with more than half occurring in China, India, Indonesia, Nigeria and Pakistan.
“Most of these deaths could have been prevented,” according to WHO’s Global Tuberculosis Report 2015, which was released today in Washington, D.C.
The report said to reduce TB’s overall burden, detection and treatment gaps need to be closed, funding shortfalls filled and new diagnostics, drugs and vaccines developed.
On the positive side, effective diagnosis and treatment saved 43 million lives between 2000 and 2015, according to the report.
“The report shows that TB control has had a tremendous impact in terms of lives saved and patients cured,” said WHO Director-General Margaret Chan. “These advances are heartening, but if the world is to end this epidemic, it needs to scale up services and, critically, invest in research.”
Dr. Mario Raviglione, Director of WHO’s Global TB Programme, said ‘despite the gains, the progress made against TB is far from sufficient” with 4,400 people are dying from the disease every day, “which is unacceptable in an era when you can diagnose and cure nearly every person with TB.”
In 2014, TB killed 890 000 men, 480 000 women and 140 000 children, according to the report.
“The disease ranks alongside HIV as a leading killer worldwide,” it said.
The report went on to say that “this year’s report describes higher global totals for new TB cases (9.6. million) than in previous years,” reflecting increased and improved national data and in-depth studies rather than any increase in the spread of the disease.
And “more than half of the world’s TB cases (54 per cent) occurred in China, India, Indonesia, Nigeria and Pakistan,” it said. “Among new cases, an estimated 3.3 per cent have multidrug-resistant TB, a level that has remained unchanged in recent years.”
Detection and treatment gaps are especially serious among people with multidrug-resistant TB MDR-TB, which remains a public health crisis, the report showed. The three countries with the largest numbers of cases are China, India and the Russian Federation.
The number of people living with HIV who were given TB preventive therapy was nearly 1 million in 2014, an increase of about 60 per cent compared with 2013. More than half (59 per cent) of these people were in South Africa.
“From 2016, the global goal will shift from controlling TB to ending the global TB epidemic,” the report stated.
“Ending the TB epidemic is now part of the Sustainable Development Goal agenda” said Dr. Eric Goosby, UN Special Envoy on Tuberculosis. “If we want to achieve it, we’ll need far more investment – at a level befitting such a global threat.”