Tackling Tuberculosis Across the Globe

Tuberculosis (TB) is responsible for 4,000 deaths daily, killing more adults around the world than any other infectious disease. Here are some key facts on TB:

  • According to the World Health Organization (WHO), 9.6 million people developed TB in 2014 and 1.5 million died as a result of the curable and preventable disease.
  • More than 95 percent of TB cases and deaths occur in developing countries.
  • Caused by bacteria, TB is spread from person to person through the air.
  • The WHO reports that about one-third of the world’s population has latent TB, meaning a person is infected by the bacteria but is not symptomatic and not transmitting the disease.
  • Between 2000 and 2014, an estimated 43 million lives were saved through TB diagnosis and treatment.

Tackling Multidrug-resistant TB

Unfortunately, after decades of use, anti-tuberculosis drug resistance is becoming widespread. Disease strains that are resistant to a single anti-TB drug have been documented in every country surveyed by WHO.

Multidrug-resistant tuberculosis (MDR-TB) is a form of TB caused by bacteria that do not respond to Isoniazid and Rifampicin, the two most common anti-TB drugs.

The primary cause of MDR-TB is inappropriate treatment. Inappropriate treatment ranges from an incorrect use of anti-TB drugs to the use of poor quality medicines.

“If we don’t act promptly, if we don’t act now, then the problem of drug-resistant TB will just get worse,” reported Peter Cegielski, team leader for Drug-Resistant TB and Infection Control in the global TB branch at the CDC.

The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) reported this year alone more than 480,000 people will develop MDR-TB and fewer than 20 percent will receive the medications they need.

The USAID responded to this global health concern by announcing two new partnerships to add resources and cutting-edge technology to fight drug-resistant tuberculosis.

Janssen, the pharmaceutical arm of Johnson & Johnson, announced a $15 to $20 million pledge to combat MDR-TB. Cepheid, a maker of molecular systems and tests, is also teaming with USAID in an effort to increase access to rapid, accurate diagnostic tools.

“USAID remains committed to addressing the global rise of MDR-TB,” Dr. Ariel Pablos-Méndez, USAID Assistant Administrator for Global Health, said. “With the successful implementation of this plan, we have an incredible opportunity to make a significant impact on the emergence and spread of MDR-TB. We will continue to harness mutually rewarding partnerships, like the ones with Janssen and Cepheid, to lead international efforts against MDR-TB.”

Kara Buckley

Sources: USAID, VOA News, WHO
Photo: All Africa