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Third Of World Carrying TB; Disease Could Become Incurable Without Action, WHO Warns

“A third of the world’s population is carrying tuberculosis [TB], and the disease could become incurable if governments fail to act, the World Health Organization (WHO) has warned,” noting that a “[l]ack of funding for public health programs, the sale of inaccurate blood tests and the misuse of drugs, particularly in the private health sector, are hampering the fight against the disease and leading to drug resistance,” the Independent reports. “The rate of TB deaths had declined dramatically — by 40 percent between 1990 and 2000 — after a worldwide health campaign, which was particularly successful in China,” but “the emergence of drug-resistant strains threatens to halt progress and jeopardizes the WHO’s goal of eradicating the disease as a public health problem by 2050,” the newspaper writes, noting, “Two billion people are carriers of the TB bacillus” globally.

“Mario Raviglione, director of the WHO’s Stop TB campaign, said: ‘What we are seeing worldwide is the emergence of strains of the bacillus causing tuberculosis that are resistant to most of the drugs we have available,’” the newspaper notes. “Extreme drug-resistant strains of TB have now been found in 70 countries”; “doctors in India reported four patients this year who did not respond to any drugs at all”; and “[d]octors in Iran and Italy have also found patients who are apparently resistant to all drugs,” according to the Independent, which provides statistics on TB infection and death rates, discusses the reasons behind the emergence of drug-resistant strains. “Drug resistance has increased the cost of combating TB worldwide because additional, more expensive, medicines are needed. But international aid has dried up,” according to the newspaper (Livingstone, 5/14).