World TB Day 2011: Spotlight on diagnosis and treatment

by Julie Mollins | @jmollins | Thomson Reuters Foundation
Thursday, 24 March 2011 11:06 GMT

World TB Day is held to draw attention to tuberculosis, and efforts to eliminate the disease

LONDON (AlertNet) - World TB Day is held to draw attention to tuberculosis (TB) and efforts to eliminate the global epidemic. One-third of the world's population is infected with TB, according to the United Nations World Health Organization. The Stop TB Partnership, a network of organizations and countries fighting TB, organize it to highlight the scope of the disease and how to prevent and cure it.

The annual event marks the day in 1882 when Dr Robert Koch found the TB bacillus, which causes tuberculosis, according to the WHO website. This was the first step towards diagnosing and curing tuberculosis. The U.N. world health body is working to cut TB prevalence rates and deaths in half by 2015.



- TB is contagious and spreads through the air. If not treated, each person with active TB can infect on average 10 to 15 people a year.

- More than two billion people, equal to one third of the world’s total population, are infected with TB bacilli, the microbes that cause TB. One in every 10 of those people will become sick with active TB in his or her lifetime. People living with HIV are at a much greater risk.

- A total of 1.7 million people died from TB in 2009 (including 380,000 people with HIV), equal to about 4,700 deaths a day. TB is a disease of poverty, affecting mostly young adults in their most productive years. The vast majority of TB deaths are in the developing world, with more than half occurring in Asia.

- TB is a leading killer among people living with HIV, who have weakened immune systems.

- There were 9.4 million new TB cases in 2009, of which 80 percent were in just 22 countries. Per capita, the global TB incidence rate is falling, but the rate of decline is very slow - less than 1 percent.

- TB is a worldwide pandemic. Among the 15 countries with the highest estimated TB incidence rates, 13 are in Africa, while a third of all new cases are in India and China.

- Multidrug-resistant TB (MDR-TB) is a form of TB that does not respond to the standard treatments using first-line drugs. MDR-TB is present in virtually all countries surveyed by WHO and its partners.

- There were an estimated 440,000 new MDR-TB cases in 2008 with three countries accounting for over 50 percent of all cases globally: China, India and the Russian Federation. Extensively drug-resistant TB (XDR-TB) occurs when resistance to second-line drugs develops. It is extremely difficult to treat and cases have been confirmed in more than 58 countries.

- The world is on track to achieve two TB targets set for 2015:

  • the Millennium Development Goal, which aims to halt and reverse global incidence (in comparison with 1990)
  • the Stop TB Partnership target of halving deaths from TB (also in comparison with 1990)

- 41 million TB patients have been successfully treated in DOTS programmes and up to 6 million lives saved since 1995. 5 million more lives could be saved between now and 2015 by fully funding and implementing The Global Plan to Stop TB 2011-2015

Source: World Health Organization


Drug-resistant TB to afflict 2 million by 2015, WHO reports - Reuters

Drug resistance hampers fight against tuberculosis - Reuters

TB still deadliest among poorest - Malteser International

New test could help save drug-resistant TB sufferers - Medecins Sans Frontieres

TB in Africa: the year that was - IRIN

South Africa: Quick and easy TB diagnosis puts pressure on treatment - IRIN



- Global plan to stop TB - Stop TB Partnership

- TB and the Millennium Development Goals - Stop TB Partnership

- Women and TB - Stop TB Partnership

- TB elimination: together we can! - Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

- TB 101 - Global Business Coalition

- Mobilizing business action in the fight against TB - Global Business Coalition

- Epidemic TB in the global community - David Rochkind, Lilly MDR-TB Partnership, Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting

- Overcoming obstacles to achieve results - Global Health Council



“Decent living conditions are an effective measure for stemming TB transmission especially in overcrowded households. Despite the vast amount of research which already exists on this, the relevant authorities have yet to put this knowledge into practice. We recognise that timely diagnosis and adequate drug treatment are certainly crucial to patient recovery and preventing onward transmission, but to ignore living conditions in the fight against TB is to make a grave error." - Peter Williams, Founder and Executive Director of Architecture for Health in Vulnerable Environments 

"We are seeing an emerging epidemic of drug resistant TB. It is a sobering thought that an estimated two million people living with HIV could die of TB between now and 2015, if urgent action is not taken. The tools are now available to prevent many of these deaths––a faster, more accurate TB test has been developed––and access to antiretroviral therapy has been significantly improved. TB and HIV communities must continue to scale-up joint efforts to rapidly roll-out these services and save lives. Let us not forget that HIV and TB are two diseases –– but we are talking about one life. UNAIDS has committed to halving TB deaths in people living with HIV by 2015. I believe we can not only achieve this goal, but surpass it." - Michael Sidibe, executive director, UNAIDS

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