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Tuberculosis

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Number Of New TB Infections Fall, But Drug Resistance, Lack Of Funding Could Slow Progress, WHO Reports

“New tuberculosis [TB] infections dropped 2.2 percent worldwide last year, but with nearly nine million new infections, the World Health Organization said TB remains a massive problem that could worsen if countries shortchange funding to fight it,” Reuters reports (Steenhuysen, 10/17). “In a new report issued Wednesday, the U.N. agency estimated there were about 8.7 million new cases of TB last year, down from about 8.8 million in 2010,” and “[t]he number of deaths was unchanged at about 1.4 million — making it the second-leading killer among infectious diseases after AIDS,” the Associated Press writes (Cheng, 10/17). “The number of people becoming ill with tuberculosis has been falling steadily for roughly a decade after a surge in the 1990s,” but “those numbers are still huge, and only 19 percent of those infected with forms of the disease that are resistant to multiple tuberculosis drugs are being diagnosed, the WHO estimated,” according to the Wall Street Journal (McKay, 10/18). BBC News notes the report “warned of ‘persistently slow progress’ in treating tuberculosis which is resistant to antibiotics” (Gallagher, 10/17).

Examining Funding For TB Treatment In Europe

In a BMJ Group Blogs post, Caroline Robinson, global health advocacy manager for Results U.K., discusses the prevalence and treatment of tuberculosis (TB) and drug-resistant TB in Europe and provides the example of Romania. She writes, “[E]vidence brought to light in a new report [.pdf] released recently outlining the effect funding shortages will have on HIV and TB, including drug-resistant TB, in the European region suggests that Romania does not have the institutional capacity to ensure its citizens have the basic right to health. The country relies on grants from the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis, and Malaria, which look set to end in 2013.” She continues, “[Global Fund] Board members should ensure that middle-income countries with epidemics among key populations can access critical Global Fund contributions and the E.U. and its member states must continue to provide the resources the fund requires to meet demand. Unless such support is given, countries like Romania will continue to fall further down the league tables in terms of treatment for this curable disease” (10/10).

Revamped South African National AIDS Council Begins Work Reviewing National Plan

South Africa “recently unveiled” a “newly reformed” South African National AIDS Council (SANAC), “coinciding with the announcement that the country has achieved universal access to HIV treatment,” PlusNews reports. Responding to a 2010 review of the body, SANAC “will now hold a new, annual meeting comprised of representatives from the research community, labor unions and people living with HIV,” at which “participants will discuss major policy issues and review progress on the country’s current national plan to address the twin epidemics of HIV and tuberculosis,” according to the news service.

Global Health Funding Cuts Threatening Fight Against HIV, TB In Eastern Europe, Central Asia, NGO Report Says

The fight against HIV and tuberculosis (TB) in Eastern Europe and Central Asia is being threatened by cuts in global health funding, according to “a report [.pdf] by leading European non-governmental health organizations,” Reuters reports. In the report, “experts called on the European Union to step in to fill the gaps left by global donors to countries within and neighboring its borders,” the news service notes. According to Reuters, “[c]ountries in Eastern Europe and Central Asia have some of the world’s fastest growing HIV epidemics,” and “Europe is also home to the world’s highest documented rates of drug-resistant TB” (Kelland, 9/18).

UNITAID Should 'Reinvent Itself' To Increase Role In Global Health Field

In this post in the Center for Global Development’s (CGD) “Global Health Policy” blog, Victoria Fan, a CGD research fellow, and Rachel Silverman, a research assistant for the global health team at the center, examine the future of UNITAID. “Perhaps due to its relative obscurity and late entry to a crowded global health field, UNITAID has proactively worked to differentiate itself through a focus on commodities, market shaping, novel funding sources, and innovation,” but, “as UNITAID celebrates its sixth birthday …, it stands at a potential crossroads,” they write. Fan and Silverman note that a five-year evaluation report on the future of UNITAID, commissioned by its Executive Board, is forthcoming, and they highlight a paper (.pdf) in which they “outline some contradictions and limitations of UNITAID’s current approach.” They write, “We hope that the imminent evaluation provides the impetus for UNITAID to turn inward and do something truly innovative: buck institutional inertia, change course as necessary, and reinvent itself as the solution to 2012’s biggest global health challenges” (9/17).

International Roadmap For TB Research Outlines Priorities

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).

Addressing TB Prevention, Treatment Among Migrant Populations

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).

Cases Of Totally Drug-Resistant TB Reported In India

“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).

Blog Interviews UCLA Professor About Highly Drug-Resistant TB

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).

Celebrating The Global Fund As It Turns 10

“As the Global Fund [to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria] turns 10 on January 26, 2012, Nigerian families should join in the celebration of this innovative initiative that has saved the lives of millions here in Nigeria and across the globe,” Bello Bissalla, project manager for private sector and government partnerships at Friends of the Global Fund Africa, writes in Nigeria’s BusinessDay. “Much of the Global Fund’s success could be attributed to its performance-based financing mechanism, which creates room for transparency in the purchase, distribution and administration of drugs for these three diseases,” Bissalla continues, noting the grant review process “ensures that grant recipients show verified evidence of performance before receiving the next tranche of funding, thus ensuring transparency and implementation of the grant according to the plan.”

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