WHO takes aim at tuberculosis with new 5-year plan

by Reuters
Wednesday, 13 October 2010 09:00 GMT

* TB kills nearly 2 million people a year

* WHO says TB usually curable if diagnosed early

By Jon Herskovitz

JOHANNESBURG, Oct 13 (Reuters) - The World Health Organisation laid out a new plan on Wednesday to combat tuberculosis and the nearly 2 million deaths it causes each year through a combination of better testing, diagnosis and drugs.

"The Global Plan to Stop TB 2011-2015" will cost about $47 billion, with money going to fund more testing labs and research projects to develop and deliver medicine to treat the disease, it said in its plan.

"The stakes are high: without rapid scale-up of TB prevention and treatment, some 10 million people will die of a curable disease by 2015," said Marcos Espinal, the partnership's executive secretary.

TB is an ancient illness, with most cases curable if detected early and treated with antimicrobial drugs, the WHO said.

All countries are affected but most of the cases occur in Asia and Africa. India and China account for 35 percent of all cases. TB ranks as the eighth-leading cause of death in low- and middle-income countries, it said.

The WHO is looking for about half the money for the programme to come from high-income countries and said if fully implemented, it could save about 5 million lives.

It is aiming for a 90 percent treatment success rate by 2015, up from 86 percent in 2008/09 and to have all TB patients tested for HIV.

About one-fourth are tested now and TB is a leading killer of those infected with HIV. Health experts fear the disease could deal a disastrous blow to sub-Saharan Africa, the hardest-hit region in the global AIDS epidemic.

"People living with HIV are 20 to 37 times more likely to develop TB disease during their lifetime than people who are HIV-negative," it said.

The plan also calls for more testing and better treatment strategies for multi-drug resistant strains of TB. The WHO first launched its plan to end TB in 2001 and adjusted its strategy in 2006. (Reporting by Jon Herskovitz; Editing by Noah Barkin)

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