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Quicker Response and More Money Needed to Fight XDR-TB

The 37th Union World Conference on Lung Health continues in Paris, with an emphasis on XDR-TB, or extremely drug resistant tuberculosis.

Dr. Mario Raviglione is director of the World Health Organization’s Stop TB Department. From the French capital, he told VOA English to Africa Service reporter Joe De Capua that health experts have agreed on what action to take to deal with XDR-TB.

“These recommendations are quite clear…number one – surveillance. We have developed now a model protocol for rapid surveys that should give us an answer about the extent of the spread of the strains that we have seen emerging in South Africa and also in other countries. The discussion has been quite intensive about the new diagnostics that have to be introduced,” he says. Raviglione says there’s also been a great deal of discussion on the necessity for rapid detection of XDR-TB and limiting its spread in other patients in health facilities.

Raviglione says much more money is needed to deal with the drug resistant strain of TB. Current TB spending is about $400 million a year, compared to billions being spent on HIV/AIDS.

“More important even is how much money is necessary to face this epidemic of XDR-TB in southern Africa…$95 million on top of what is being invested in normal control activities is necessary now, immediately…it’s quite important that (VOA) listeners understand the importance of the immediate mobilization of money if we want to stop the scourge from spreading further,” he says.

As for a possible TB vaccine, the WHO official says, “There are candidate vaccines in the pipeline. However, the problem with the vaccine is that it may take several years before we have all the variety of indications and details that are necessary to introduce a new vaccine.” He adds, though, there’s discussion on speeding the use of pipeline vaccines if they show promise in their early testing stages.