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XDR-TB Conference Opens in Paris

In Paris, the worlds top health experts are meeting this week to decide what to do about extremely drug resistant tuberculosis – also known as XDR-TB. The 37th Union World Conference on Lung Health will also consider related issues, such as the shortage of health care workers and inadequate health care systems.

Dr. Nils Billo is director of the International Union Against Tuberculosis and Lung Disease. From Paris, he spoke to VOA English to Africa Service reporter Joe De Capua about the threat of XDR-TB.

“This is a threat, especially where you have a lot TB and a lot of HIV. And that is the case in South Africa where this new ultra resistant TB was detected a few months ago and with more or less a 100 percent fatality (rate). And Obviously the WHO (World Health Organization) and other international authorities are now are trying assess if this is happening in other countries, although at the moment it seems like it’s only in a few isolated countries…(it’s) probably only going to be happening in a situation where you have a deficient health care system, where you have a lot of TB and a lot of HIV occurring at the same time,” he says.

Dr. Billo says that there’s no reason to panic at this time, but he says the situation needs to be closely supervised.

Asked about the lack of treatments available for XDR-TB, he says, “There’s only very little funding being given for the development of new drugs and new vaccines and diagnostics.” He says those at the conference recommended that research funding for TB be increased from $400 million a year to $2 billion.

The 37th Union World Conference on Lung Health continues until November 4th.