“With $2.5 trillion in mineral reserves, South Africa has the largest mining sector in the world,” but “[t]he work can be devastatingly toxic for the body,” with “inhumane and untenable” working conditions, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, archbishop emeritus of Cape Town, South Africa, writes in a Wall Street Journal opinion piece. “South Africa’s 500,000 mine workers have the highest recorded rate of [tuberculosis (TB)] among any demographic in the world,” he states, noting that cramped working and living conditions put them at an increased risk of the disease. Overall, “mine-associated TB gives rise to 760,000 new cases annually in Africa,” and “costs South Africa alone $886 million each year in health care costs and in impoverishment when family providers are too sick to work, or die,” according to a study conducted by the Southern African Development Community (SADC), Tutu writes. Therefore, the 15 SADC nations this summer pledged to take “concrete steps” to fight the disease, he notes.
The November 2012 issue of USAID’s “Global Health News” newsletter focuses on tuberculosis (TB). The newsletter features a link to a video titled “Voices of TB,” an infographic (.pdf) on innovations in TB diagnostics, and links to an IMPACTblog piece and a USAID press release discussing TB diagnostics (November 2012).
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).
According to a Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) and WHO joint press release, USAID “has tripled its financial support for the Pan American Health Organization/World Health Organization (PAHO/WHO) Regional Tuberculosis Program, which seeks to prevent 15,000 deaths from tuberculosis in Latin America and the Caribbean over the next five years and reduce the incidence of this disease.” The press release notes the commitment “increases a previous $5 million USAID/PAHO agreement, signed in November 2011 to strengthen programs for tuberculosis, maternal and neonatal health, and health systems in the region over the course of a three-year period, to a total of $8.9 million.” The press release states that $5.1 million is earmarked for the tuberculosis program, “up from an originally expected investment of $1.5 million” (10/31).
As part of its “Blueprint” series discussing the creation of a U.S. global AIDS blueprint called for by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in July, the Center for Global Health Policy’s “Science Speaks” blog features an opinion piece by Salmaan Keshavjee of Harvard Medical School and Partners In Health. With an estimated 1,000 people with HIV dying of tuberculosis (TB) every day, “[i]t is clear that our current approaches to addressing the global tuberculosis pandemic are inadequate,” he writes. Keshavjee says, “First, bold targets for reducing tuberculosis incidence and zero TB-HIV deaths must be prioritized in the blueprint. … Second, known strategies for stopping the spread of tuberculosis have to be actively implemented. … Lastly, any effective strategy has to ensure that HIV advocates at the community level are educated about the threat of tuberculosis,” and he describes each of his points in detail. He concludes, “The United States has shown visionary leadership in the area of HIV treatment and changed the lives of countless people for the better. It is time to take on tuberculosis with the same moral and pragmatic vigor” (Barton, 10/31).
“Industrial pollution is putting the health of 125 million people at risk worldwide and is as dangerous in the developing world as malaria or tuberculosis, according to a new report,” titled “2012 World’s Worst Pollution Problems,” Reuters/ABC Science reports (Allen, 10/24). According to the Guardian, the report, published on Tuesday by the Blacksmith Institute in partnership with Green Cross Switzerland, “documents, for the first time, the public health impact of industrial pollutants — lead, mercury, chromium, radionuclides and pesticides — in the air, water and soil of developing countries.”
Speaking on Monday in Luanda, Angola, at the opening session of the inaugural meeting on Medical Education, sponsored by the Faculty of Medicine of Agostinho Neto University, WHO Regional Director for Africa Luis Gomes Sambo said communicable diseases account for 63 percent of deaths in Africa, with HIV and tuberculosis (TB) responsible for the majority of those, the Angola Press reports. Nonetheless, Africa has made significant progress against HIV/AIDS and malaria, as well as in improving child and maternal mortality, he said, according to the news service (10/22). Sambo also “said on Monday in Luanda that the population’s health depends on the provision of health care for those [in] need, as well as the efforts made by the society to protect, promote and re-establish the people’s well-being,” another article from Angola Press notes (10/23).
In a post in the Center for Global Health Policy’s “Science Speaks” blog, Lucica Ditiu, executive secretary of the Stop TB Partnership, examines the need to include tuberculosis (TB) in the global AIDS response blueprint that Secretary of State Hillary Clinton announced at the XIX International AIDS Conference (AIDS 2012), writing, “At present one in four AIDS-related deaths is precipitated by TB. … All people living with HIV need to get tested for TB and receive TB treatment if they have the disease.” She continues, “We urge PEPFAR to include in the blueprint explicit TB/HIV indicators and activities,” and she provides five examples (10/23).
“An antibiotic used to treat severe bacterial infections showed promise at treating a highly drug-resistant and deadly form of tuberculosis [TB],” according to a study conducted by U.S. government and South Korean researchers and published in the New England Journal of Medicine on Wednesday, Reuters reports (Steenhuysen, 10/17). The “small study offers a bit of cautious optimism about the prospects for treatment of tuberculosis, … showing that adding a 12-year-old antibiotic called linezolid, brand name Zyvox, to existing treatments cured nearly 90 percent of patients with a form of tuberculosis resistant to both first- and second-line antibiotics,” NPR’s “Shots” blog writes (Knox, 10/18). “However, most of the patients [in the study] — 82 percent — experienced side effects while on the treatment, which tempered the findings, the team reported,” Reuters notes. “Researchers are desperately looking for new treatments for drug-resistant forms of TB, which threatens to derail progress in the global fight to eradicate the disease,” according to the news agency (10/17).
Noting the release of the WHO Global Tuberculosis Report 2012 this week, this Lancet editorial says the results show “good and bad news.” The editorial says, “The number of tuberculosis cases and deaths continues to fall … and overall, the world is on track to achieve the global target of a 50 percent reduction by 2015.” However, “with an estimated 8.7 million new cases (of which 13 percent represent co-infections with HIV) and 1.4 million deaths from tuberculosis in 2011,” the “global burden of tuberculosis remains huge,” the editorial states. The report also shows “alarming levels of multidrug-resistant (MDR) and extensively drug-resistant (XDR) tuberculosis,” the editorial notes.