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November 10, 2010

Progress in TB Control Since 1995, But More Must Be Done

The World Health Organization's Global TB Report says considerable improvements in the quality of tuberculosis care have been made since 1995, especially in the poorest countries.  The report finds more than 40 million TB patients were successfully treated for the disease during the past 15 years, resulting in 6 million lives saved.  

The World Health Organization calls this the most comprehensive report ever published about tuberculosis.  The report profiles 22 high-burden TB countries, analyzing the effectiveness of TB control measures.

Co-Author of the report, Philippe Glaziou, says the analysis shows incidence of TB is falling or stable in all 22 countries, with the exception of South Africa.

He says countries, such as Brazil, Cambodia, China, Tanzania, Uganda, and Mozambique are particularly successful in bringing down the incidence of the disease.

"Increases in case detection along with improved quality of care has led to declines in TB mortality.  For instance, in China, TB mortality has dropped by about 50 percent over the past decade.  This is a considerable achievement.  In Brazil and Cambodia, TB mortality is also about half the level that it had back in 1990,"  he said.

The report notes many more people in sub-Saharan Africa are being screened for HIV/AIDS and the number of people receiving anti-retroviral therapy is increasing.  This it says is allowing many people with tuberculosis to survive.  The report says anti-retroviral therapy coverage in 11 African countries now exceeds 40 percent.

Despite this progress, WHO Stop TB Department Director Mario Raviglione says these successes are too fragile.  He says the remaining challenges are huge.  

"There are still, as I mentioned 1.7 million deaths every year from a disease that is perfectly curable in 2010," he said. "The incidents I mentioned is falling, but it is falling far too slowly, less than 1 percent per year.  At this rate, at this pace it will take millennia to get rid of TB.  So, the goal of elimination may not actually be feasible in the short term.  And finally, the biggest challenge of all, the issue of Multi-Drug Resistant tuberculosis."

Nearly half a million people have multi-drug-resistant tuberculosis, which requires a complex, long, costly and toxic treatment.

The report says countries globally are on target to halt and to begin to reverse incidence of tuberculosis by 2015, the due date of the Millennium Development Goals.  It says countries also are globally on target to cut TB deaths by half by 2015.

Authors of the report say five-million lives can be saved between now and 2015 by fully funding and implementing the Global Plan to Stop TB.