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DOTS Has Cured 36M People, Prevented Up To 8M TB Deaths Over 15 Years, WHO Says

Since the WHO developed Directly Observed Therapy, Short-course (DOTS) in 1994 for the treatment of tuberculosis, approximately 36 million people have successfully completed treatment and been cured over the past 15 years, according to new data released by the WHO on Tuesday, health-e reports (Thom, 12/8).  

The data shows “that up to 8 million TB deaths have been averted,” according to a WHO press release, which notes that after the initial implementation of DOTS, the approach was “later incorporated into the WHO Stop TB Strategy as its main component.”  In addition, “[d]ata from the latest 12 month period now shows that the highest ever number of infectious patients – 2.3 million people – were cured.  With 87% of treated patients being cured, the 85% global target was exceeded for the first time since it was established in 1991.  Furthermore, a total of 53 countries surpassed this treatment milestone,” according to the release (12/8).

“Fifteen years of TB investments are bringing visible results in terms of human lives saved. Together, national programs, the WHO, UNAIDS, the Global Fund and other partners have helped save millions of lives from TB,” said Mario Raviglione, director of the WHO’s Stop TB Department. “But the current pace of progress is far from sufficient to decisively target our goal of TB elimination,” he added, Reuters reports (Steenhuysen, 12/9). He also noted a “$2 billion funding gap for TB care and control in 2010,” which could prevent people from receiving “the benefits so many others have seen,” the U.N. News Centre reports (12/8).

In 2008, there were about 9.4 million recorded TB cases, according to the WHO. “About 1.8 million people died in the year from the disease, including half a million deaths associated with HIV,” Agence France-Presse writes (12/8). “The WHO update shows continued progress on addressing the lethal combination of TB and HIV,” health-e writes. “Between 2007 and 2008, 1.4 million TB patients were tested for HIV, an increase of 200,000.” Of those testing HIV-positive, one-third received antiretroviral therapy (12/8). According to AFP, about 500,000 people are diagnosed with multidrug-resistant strains of TB, “but only 6,000 were receiving treatment according to WHO standards in 2008” (12/8).

Newsweek Examines Tuberculosis

In related news, Newsweek published an article looking at the prospects of controlling the disease around the world. According to the magazine, “Western dollars have skewed global health priorities in favor of diseases with young victims [and] obvious solutions … Tuberculosis has thrived by sidestepping any such attention – capturing snags. It’s old. It preys on societies’ most disenfranchised members. And having made an ally of the very air we breathe, it won’t be deterred by anything as simple as a condom or a bed net. In fact, experts say that more than any other disease, this 19th-century relic is exposing all the cracks in our multibillion-dollar global health system.” The article examines funding challenges and the unique threats posed by the emergence of drug-resistant strains (Interlandi, 12/8).