In anticipation of World Tuberculosis (TB) Day, commemorated on March 24, this Lancet editorial examines TB control and elimination efforts in 2012 and beyond. “Tuberculosis killed 1.45 million people in 2010 and about 500,000 people have drug-resistant disease,” the editorial states, adding, “Despite a woeful funding gap in 2012 of $1.7 billion, tuberculosis incidence is falling (from 9.4 million in 2009 to 8.8 million in 2010).” The editorial notes, “Ten new or repurposed tuberculosis drugs are in Phase II or III trials, which hopefully will reduce treatment times to about four months, compared with present multidrug-resistant tuberculosis regimens lasting 18-24 months,” adding, “Faster treatment will greatly improve adherence, reduce transmission, and cut costs.”
U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on Thursday during a visit to the Institute of Respiratory Medicine in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, “urged countries to step up their efforts to prevent tuberculosis (TB)” and “called for ‘intensified global solidarity to ensure that the children and people of all the countries get medical support, so that they can breathe with health,’” the U.N. News Centre reports. Speaking ahead of World Tuberculosis Day on March 24, Ban said “that countries have the means to prevent unnecessary deaths, but need to implement policies that not only raise awareness about the issue but provide accessible health care to their citizens,” according to the news service. In 2011, 1.4 million people died of TB, the news service notes (2/22).
WHO Reports More Than 900,000 Lives Saved Because Of HIV/TB Care And Prevention Guidelines, Releases Updated Version
“An estimated 910,000 lives were saved globally in six years due to guidelines intended to ensure that people living with HIV/AIDS are protected from tuberculosis [TB], the United Nations World Health Organization (WHO) said today, releasing an updated policy on joint prevention, diagnosis and treatment of both diseases,” the U.N. News Centre reports (3/2). “The number of HIV-positive people screened for TB rose almost 12-fold, from nearly 200,000 in 2005 to more than 2.3 million in 2010, the WHO said, as it released data on the impact of its 2004 guidelines on TB and HIV,” Reuters reports (3/2).
Inadequate Government TB Program, Lax Drug Sale Regulations Contributing To MDR-TB Cases In India, Health Groups Say
“India’s inadequate government-run tuberculosis [TB] treatment programs and a lack of regulation of the sale of drugs that fight the disease are responsible for the [increasing] number of drug-resistant cases that are difficult to treat,” health advocacy organizations said in India last week, the Associated Press/Huffington Post reports. “India adds an estimated 99,000 cases of drug-resistant TB every year, but only a tiny fraction of those infected receive the proper” six- to nine-month antibiotic regimen, according to the AP. In India, government-run TB treatment programs only provide drugs to patients on alternate days, increasing the likelihood of missed doses, and patients increasingly are turning to private physicians who are unaware of how to treat the disease, Medecins Sans Frontieres in India and other health groups said, the news agency reports. “The Indian government had no response Friday to requests for comment on the activists’ allegations,” the AP writes (Naqvi, 3/23).
In this Lancet opinion piece, Madhukar Pai, a professor and tuberculosis (TB) researcher at McGill University and consultant to the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, discusses TB control in India. He writes, “Much has been said and written in the media about totally drug-resistant tuberculosis â€¦ However, all of these discussions really miss the key point — that tuberculosis continues to be a huge problem in India, and that the conditions for emergence of drug resistance are undeniably prevalent, in both public and private sectors.”
Speaking at an event where South African Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe urged the mining industry to take greater steps to address tuberculosis (TB) and HIV among its employees, Mineral Resources Minister Susan Shabangu “announced that mining companies, whose HIV, TB and workplace safety policies are being audited by her department, will have to submit their policies as a prerequisite for renewing their mining licenses,” PlusNews reports. “According to Shabangu, South Africa’s mining sector sees three times as many cases of active TB as the general population,” the news service writes.
Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) says the spread of multidrug-resistant tuberculosis (MDR-TB) — “a form of tuberculosis that does not respond to standard treatment and can kill in a matter of months” — “is much greater than previously thought,” VOA News reports. “‘Wherever we’re looking for drug-resistant TB we’re finding it in very alarming numbers. And that suggests to us that the current statistics that are being published about the prevalence of MDR-TB are really just scratching the surface of the problem,’ said Dr. Leslie Shanks, medical director for the group,” the news service writes (DeCapua, 3/21).
A joint fact sheet on the U.S.-U.K. Partnership for Global Development is available on the White House website. “Through the Partnership, we are working together to achieve better results by advancing economic growth; preventing conflict in fragile states; improving global health, particularly for girls and women; strengthening mutual accountability, transparency, and measurement of results; and mitigating the effects of climate change,” the fact sheet states, elaborating on joint efforts in each of these areas (3/14).
The Center for Global Health Policy’s “Science Speaks” blog interviews tuberculosis (TB) expert Lee Reichman, founding executive director of the New Jersey Medical School Global Tuberculosis Institute, in advance of World TB Day, to be observed on March 24. According to the blog, Reichman discusses “the spread of drug-resistant TB and what he thinks are the most promising advances coming down the scientific pipeline” (Mazzotta, 3/19).
The TB Alliance on Monday announced it has launched a Phase II clinical trial “of a new treatment regimen for tuberculosis, including for patients with resistance to existing multi-drug programs,” Agence France-Presse reports. “The new regimen being tested could shorten required treatment to as little as four months in both patients with TB and some forms of drug-resistant TB, compared with the current six to 24 months,” the news agency writes, adding, “Costs will also be vastly reduced.” The trial “will take place at eight sites in South Africa, Tanzania, and Brazil, the alliance said,” AFP notes (Santini, 3/19).