‘Staggering number of lives lost to a curable disease’

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GlobalTBreportThe [b]World Health Organisation (WHO)[/b] has revised up its estimate of how many people have tuberculosis (TB) by almost 500,000. [s]BBC News[/s] reports that the WHO said in 9m people had developed TB worldwide in 2013, up from 8.6m in 2012. However, the number of people dying from TB continued to decline. About 1.5m people had died in 2013 from TB, including 360,000 people who had been HIV positive, the WHO said in its [i]Global Tuberculosis Report 2014[/i]. And in 2012, there had been 1.3m tuberculosis deaths. The WHO said its report underlined that a ‘staggering number of lives are being lost to a curable disease and confirms that TB is the second biggest killer disease from a single infectious agent’. In the long-term, the mortality rate from TB had fallen, dropping by 45% since 1990, the WHO said.

The decrease in TB deaths and new cases globally was encouraging, said SA Health Minister Dr Aaron Motsoaledi. But while [b]SA[/b] has met [b]Millennium Development Goal[/b] targets to reduce new TB cases, the country – like Africa generally – is unlikely to meet international targets to halve TB-related deaths by next year. According to a Health-e report, treatment gaps also persist – SA saw a slight increase in multidrug-resistant (MDR) TB cases diagnosed as compared to the previous year and less than half of the about 26,000 South Africans diagnosed with MDR-TB in 2013 were ever treated. SA’s MDR-TB burden ranks ninth in the world. Meanwhile, SA leads the [b]Brics[/b] countries in funding TB research and in 2013 spent about R10m on the field of study – about R413,000 more than [b]Brazil[/b]. Motsoaledi said the country is planning to scale up TB funding for local bodies like the [b]Medical Research Council[/b].

[s]Polity[/s] reports that this, the 19th, global TB report by WHO, provides a comprehensive and up-to-date assessment of the TB epidemic and progress in implementing and financing TB prevention, care and control at global, regional and country levels using data reported by over 200 countries that account for over 99% of the world’s TB cases. The report is accompanied by a special supplement that marks the 20th anniversary of the establishment of the [b]Global Project on Anti-TB Drug Resistance Surveillance[/b]. The supplement highlights the latest status of knowledge about the epidemic of MDR-TB and the programmatic response.

With increasing drug resistance, and exacerbating coexisting conditions such as the human immunodeficiency virus–acquired immunodeficiency syndrome and diabetes, TB continues to pose a massive threat to global health. A commentary in [s]The Lancet[/s] says that three trials in the latest issue offer sobering reminder of the enormity of this task, while providing some insight into the factors that are likely to determine the success of new, treatment-shortening regimens.

But pharmaceutical companies are decreasing their investment in TB. [s]The Times[/s] reports that this is according to Dr Mario Raviglione, director of the [b]Global TB Programme[/b] at the WHO, who said that ‘pharmaceutical companies are less interested in largely developing countries … as financial gain is limited. They know (that) 95% of (TB) cases are in the developing world.’ He said it cost $8bn to detect and treat the disease annually but only $6bn was available. Only 48% of people with drug-resistant TB are cured globally. In [b]SA[/b], the figure stands at 40%.

Full BBC News report
WHO report
Full Health-e report
Full Polity report
New England Medical Journal commentary
NEMJ trial abstract
NEMJ trial abstract
NEMJ trial abstract
Full report in The Times

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