Authors: Martha Powell, Future Science Group
In 2018 more people received treatment for tuberculosis than ever before, largely due to improvements in detection and diagnosis, according to the latest Global Tuberculosis Report from the WHO.
Case detection and treatment
Worldwide, 10 million cases of TB were estimated in 2018, a number that has been relatively stable in recent years. Of these, 7 million individuals were diagnosed and treated for TB in 2018, an increase from the 6.4 million in 2017, meaning that one of the milestones towards the United Nations political declaration targets on TB has been met.
Most cases in 2018 were in Southeast Asia (44%), followed by Africa (24%) and the Western Pacific (18%). Eight countries – India, China, Indonesia, the Philippines, Pakistan, Nigeria, Bangladesh and South Africa – accounted for two-thirds of the global total.
The Global Tuberculosis Report also notes a decrease in the number of deaths from TB – 1.5 million individuals in 2018 compared with 1.6 million in 2017.
WHO Director-General, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, commented: “Today we mark the passing of the first milestone in the effort to reach people who’ve been missing out on services to prevent and treat TB. This is proof that we can reach global targets if we join forces together, as we have done through the Find.Treat.All.EndTB joint initiative of WHO, Stop TB Partnership and the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, TB and Malaria”.
Universal health coverage
Despite positive statistics the Report highlights that in order to reach the Sustainable Development Goal of ending TB by 2030 progress must be accelerated. Moreover, despite 7 million individuals receiving a diagnosis and treatment, it was estimated that 3 million of those with TB are still missing out on the care they require.
Dr Tedros commented: “Sustained progress on TB will require strong health systems and better access to services. That means a renewed investment in primary health care and a commitment to universal health coverage.”
TB continues to have a high burden in low-income and marginalized populations. It was reported that up to 80% of TB patients in high burden countries spend more than 20% of their annual household income on treating the disease, this is one facet that will need to be addressed in addition to more comprehensive and patient-centric approaches, such as integrating TB and HIV programs.
The Global Tuberculosis Report highlights that drug resistance continues to be an issue in TB, with half a million new cases of rifampicin-resistant TB in 2018, 78% of which were multidrug-resistant. Of these half a million cases only one in three accessed treatment, and of those that received treatment only 56% of cases were treated successfully.
Finally, the Report notes that TB remains underfunded, with the shortfall for TB prevention and care estimated at US $3.3 billion, and the shortfall for TB research at US $1.2 billion annually.
Tereza Kasaeva, Director of WHO’s Global TB Program concluded: “To accelerate TB research and innovation, WHO is developing a global strategy. We are collaborating with academia, research networks such as the BRICS TB Research network, and partners including the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, UNITAID and others in a quest to bring innovations into practice to break the trajectory of the TB epidemic.”
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Source: World Health Organization. 7 million people receive record levels of lifesaving TB treatment but 3 million still miss out. https://www.who.int/