WASHINGTON - International public health officials have announced plans to eliminate tuberculosis in more than 30 countries that already have low TB rates. The new goal calls on those nations to prioritize efforts to drive down the infection rate to near zero.
The new framework — driving down the tuberculosis rate to fewer than 10 new cases per million annually by 2035 — was outlined Thursday in Rome. International public health officials are meeting there to coordinate TB elimination efforts.
Fewer than 100 TB cases per one million people are reported each year in 33 countries and territories, including Jordan, the United Arab Emirates, Malta and the West Bank and Gaza Strip. Still, that translates to 155,000 new infections and some 10,000 deaths.
The ultimate goal is eradication of the disease in those countries by 2050. The WHO defines elimination as less than one new case per million people each year.
“We need an extra coordination of all the areas, all the compartments of this TB control elimination program. And those are eight main areas,” says Giovanni Battista Migliori, head of the European Respiratory Society and director of the WHO Collaborating Center for Tuberculosis and Lung Diseases.
Migliori says the eight key interventions include increased funding to screen for active and silent TB infection in high risk groups, such as people with HIV, residents of impoverished communities and migrants from neighboring countries.
In addition, he says the governments should invest in research into new tools to rapidly identify and treat tuberculosis, including multi-drug resistant strains.
Migliori says there’s a strong motivation for low-burden countries to try to eliminate TB.
“There are several studies showing that the treatment and prevention of tuberculosis is cost-effective, so that the society costs due to tuberculosis are much higher than the investment needed to prevent [the disease],” he said.
Migliori says a renewed push to eliminate TB is needed so a resurgence of a preventable and treatable disease does not occur in low-burden countries.