Who: too little progress in the fight against tuberculosis

Who: too little progress in the fight against tuberculosis

By 2030, the world wants to defeat tuberculosis, but less than ten years before the target date, it looks bleak: only a fraction of the people who need it, get today preventive life-saving drugs, writes the world health organization (WHO) for world tuberculosis day (24. Marz).

At a tuberculosis summit in 2018, the world’s governments promised to provide preventive treatment for at least 30 million people at risk of infection, including four million children, by 2022. "This disease remains the world’s biggest infectious killer," WHO says.

In 2018, only 430,000 TB contacts and 1.8 million people infected with HIV were given preventive treatment. Only a quarter of children under five in families where someone lives with tuberculosis (TB) have been treated, he said.

Every day, more than 4,000 people worldwide die from the dangerous infectious disease, and nearly 30,000 fall ill, according to the WHO. All figures refer to 2018. A quarter of the world’s population carries the virus, which can affect the lungs and other organs. That’s nearly two billion people. Many, however, are healthy and do not infect others. However, if the immune system were to be compromised, they would run the risk of becoming ill. Half a million people who developed tuberculosis in 2018 were found to be resistant to current drugs.

Despite the crisis caused by the new coronavirus sars-cov-2, which can trigger the lung disease covid-19, the world must continue to make every effort to defeat diseases such as tuberculosis, said WHO director-general tedros adhanom ghebreyesus. "Millions of people need to be able to get preventive medicines to prevent an outbreak of the disease, avert suffering and save lives." Risk groups needed more consistent treatment, WHO urges. This includes people living with TB, people living with HIV, people with compromised immune systems, and people living in close relationships with many other people.

As a preventive measure, patients are treated with one or more antibiotics for up to six months. Treatment costs between $5 and $15 (up to 14 euros) in poorer countries, said matteo zignol, head of the TB prevention program at WHO. TB patients are particularly at risk of contracting the new virus that causes covid-19 lung disease.

Every dollar invested in the fight against tuberculosis yields 43 dollars, said tereza kasaeva, head of the tuberculosis program at the WHO, for example through savings in health costs or the productivity of those who remained or became healthy. Last year, only two-thirds of the $10.1 billion needed for diagnosis and treatment was spent, according to WHO figures. Less than half of the $2 billion needed for research has been raised, he said.


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