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WHO Reports Drop In TB Deaths Last Year, Warns Undiagnosed Cases, Drug Resistance Threaten Progress

“Global efforts to rein in tuberculosis [TB] helped cut the death toll to 1.3 million last year, but drug-resistant forms of the disease are sparking huge concern, the WHO said Wednesday,” Agence France-Presse reports (10/23). “In its annual report on tuberculosis, the [WHO] said the world was on track to meet U.N. goals for 2015 of reversing TB incidence and cutting the death rate by 50 percent compared to 1990,” Reuters writes, adding, “Yet around three million people with TB are being missed by health systems” (Kelland, 10/23). “Finding these missed cases is one of the biggest challenges in TB care and control, the WHO’s report says,” according to BBC News, which notes, “Twelve countries including India, South Africa and Bangladesh account for the majority of undiagnosed individuals” (Briggs, 10/23).

“The agency on Wednesday also noted a rise in drug-resistant strains, which require more toxic and expensive drugs,” the Associated Press reports (10/23). “Approximately 16,000 people were diagnosed with multidrug-resistant tuberculosis [MDR-TB] in 2012 but were not given the treatment they needed to stay alive and prevent the spread of the disease,” the report says, according to The Guardian. “As the problem of MDR-TB grows, so do the waiting lists for the expensive and lengthy courses of treatment — it can take two years to cure somebody,” the newspaper notes (Boseley, 10/23). “Chief among the suggestions the WHO offers for meeting its 2015 targets are ‘reaching the missed cases’ and greater ‘high-level political will and leadership and more collaboration among partners including drug regulatory authorities, donor and technical agencies, civil society and the pharmaceutical industry’ to address TB as a substantial public health crisis,” Al Jazeera writes (Hayoun, 10/23). “The report is based primarily on data provided by WHO’s Member States,” the agency notes in a press release (10/23).