In an interview with GlobalPost’s “Global Pulse” blog, Mario Raviglione, director of the WHO’s Stop TB Department, explains “why the fight against [tuberculosis (TB)] is at a crossroads.” Because of advances in diagnostics and treatment, “we have a possibility here of envisioning a much brighter future for TB care and control over the next few decades,” he says, according to the interview transcript. “On the other hand, we have a financial gap that we are estimating at about $3 billion out of the $8 billion that are necessary for care and control efforts in countries, plus another $1.4 billion gap in the area of research,” he continues. According to the transcript, Raviglione addresses “why the funding gap exists, what would help reduce it, and what’s at stake as we choose a path forward” (Judem, 11/1).
UNAIDS and the Stop TB Partnership on Tuesday launched an “initiative aimed at reducing HIV deaths caused by tuberculosis (TB) by half” by 2015, the U.N. News Centre reports (11/27). The memorandum of understanding signed by the groups states they will “take action … to strategically address the intolerable burden of TB mortality borne by people living with HIV,” according to a UNAIDS press release. “The two organizations are developing a detailed work plan and have committed to collaboration to achieve three main objectives within the next three years: increase political commitment and resource mobilization for TB/HIV; strengthen knowledge, capacity and engagement of civil society organizations, affected communities and the private sector; and help most-affected countries integrate TB/HIV services,” the press release continues (11/27). “TB/HIV is a deadly combination. We can stop people from dying of HIV/TB co-infection through integration and simplification of HIV and TB services,” UNAIDS Executive Director Michel Sidibe said, according to the U.N. News Centre (11/27).
In a guest post on the Global Health Technology Coalition’s “Breakthroughs” blog, Mandy Slutsker, senior project associate with the ACTION Partnership, describes a new report that calls for increased efforts to fight tuberculosis (TB) among children worldwide (Lufkin, 11/13). The report, titled “Children and Tuberculosis: From Neglect to Action,” “makes some core recommendations for donor governments and high burden countries to tackle the rates of children with TB and the knock-on financial and social difficulties faced by millions,” according to the TB Europe Coalition (11/13). In the GHTC’s blog, Slutsker writes, “It’s time for civil society, health care workers, governments, and the private sector to come together and ensure no child dies from this preventable and treatable disease” (11/13).
The Wall Street Journal examines how “Greece has seen decades of advances in public health rolled back, as a flood of illegal immigrants, a dysfunctional government and budget cuts ravage a once proud health-care system.” Noting “[o]ver the past two years, more than 50 endemic cases of [malaria] and more than 100 imported cases have been identified in Greece,” the newspaper writes, “The return of malaria, a scourge in developing countries, to Greece is a disturbing indicator of the nation’s decline since it crashed in 2009 under the weight of a debt binge.” The Wall Street Journal examines the history of malaria’s return to the country and how the government is responding. “In addition to malaria, public health officials say they are worried about rises in everything from infectious respiratory-tract diseases and skin conditions to tuberculosis and HIV,” the newspaper notes (Granitsas, 11/14).
According to a new report (.pdf) released by Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) at the Union World Conference on Lung Health in Kuala Lumpur, many tuberculosis (TB) programs “under-diagnose, under-treat or completely leave children with TB out, despite the increase in pediatric TB, and rising numbers of children who are infected with drug-resistant forms of TB strains,” PlusNews reports. The report, based on “data collected over three years from over 2,000 children with TB in 13 MSF projects across six countries,” found that diagnosis of children using the most commonly used TB test is inaccurate and pediatric TB drug formulations and treatment guidelines are inadequate, the news service notes. MSF called for the development of new TB tests that do not require sputum samples or laboratory infrastructure and “urged WHO to provide clear guidance to drug manufacturers on needed fixed-dose combinations of first-line drugs to support implementation of the new WHO-recommended dosages,” PlusNews writes (11/16).
Noting the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria met last week to discuss progress in fighting the three diseases, Lucy Chesire, executive director and secretary to the board of the TB ACTION Group, interviews Lucica Ditiu, executive secretary of the Stop TB Partnership, about the global response to tuberculosis (TB) in the Huffington Post’s “The Big Push” blog. In the blog, Ditiu summarizes the state of the global TB response, discusses the emergence of multidrug-resistant TB (MDR-TB), and addresses the Global Fund’s role in the response to TB and the future of these efforts. “The Global Fund has an ambitious strategy that includes important milestones for anti-TB efforts,” Ditiu said, adding, “The international community must find a way to fund that strategy and to ensure that resources are allocated in a way that achieves the greatest good for the greatest number of people,” according to the blog (11/16).
In this post in the PLoS “Speaking of Medicine” blog, guest blogger Christian Lienhardt, senior scientific adviser at the Stop TB Partnership and WHO, “discusses the International Roadmap for Tuberculosis (TB) Research, a framework outlining priority areas for investment in TB research.” He writes, “The tools available for TB control are old, lack effectiveness, and are not readily accessible in many settings,” adding, “Fortunately there is hope, thanks to notable progress in the development of new tools for TB control over the last decade,” such as “the recent introduction of Xpert MTB/RIF — a DNA-based molecular assay that can diagnose TB and the presence of rifampicin-resistance in 100 minutes” (1/26).
In this post on USAID’s “IMPACTblog,” Christina Lau, USAID health officer for Central Asia, discusses tackling tuberculosis (TB) in migrant populations, writing, “Most migrants are unable to access the health care system because they are undocumented laborers, who lack proper identification documents required for health care treatment, and who fear deportation if their documentation status becomes known.” She notes, “USAID is working in coalition with government and international partners in order to improve access to TB services and treatment for this crucial population” (1/26).
“For the first time in India, 12 people have been detected with totally drug-resistant lung tuberculosis (TDR-TB), a condition in which patients do not respond to any TB medication” and for which the mortality rate is 100 percent, the Hindustan Times reports. “Doctors treating these patients say the absolute resistance is a result of the patients being prescribed wrong antibiotics,” the newspaper reports (1/7). “While Iran first reported TDR-TB cases three years ago, India seems to be only the second country to report this deadly form of the disease,” the Times of India notes (Iyer, 1/7).
The Los Angeles Times’ “Booster Shots” blog features an interview with Otto Yang, a professor at the Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA, who speaks about drug-resistant tuberculosis (TB) and the implications of a highly drug-resistant strain found in India. Yang said, “Obviously [the drug-resistant TB] could be devastating if it spreads, because treatment options are so limited. So far it seems not to have been as contagious as other strains, possibly because the mutations required to make it drug-resistant also make it a little less virulent” (Brown, 1/18).