October 12, 2016

“The World Health Organization’s annual look at the global state of tuberculosis this year makes for a shockingly bad report card: countries are failing to diagnose and treat millions of people with TB, which caused 1.8 million deaths last year. Governments need to get their heads out of the sand and realize that TB is not a disease consigned to the 1800s; we see and treat TB in our clinics every day, and it’s a deadly threat to all of us.

"WHO’s report reveals that more people are dying of TB and more people are left undiagnosed and untreated than last year, creating a cycle of TB transmission and death. Only a third of the countries carrying the highest TB burdens are using the recommended rapid test to detect TB and drug-resistance as the initial diagnostic test for all people with TB – this represents an unacceptably low take up of a critically important, lifesaving tool. Governments of countries with high TB burdens and donors must urgently support implementation of the most effective tools and strategies to get more people with TB diagnosed and on the right treatment, and must fund research and development of rapid, simple and affordable diagnostic tests that can be used at the point of care, so that we can close this deadly gap as quickly as possible.

"Just one in five people with drug-resistant forms of TB received the treatment they needed in 2015 – a dismal record with deadly effects. Governments and pharmaceutical companies must do more to rapidly scale up access to new drugs effective against drug-resistant TB, so that everyone has a better chance at being cured, and to support development of new TB treatments that can cure anyone with the disease in a drastically shorter timeframe. This kind of breakthrough will only be possible if governments make TB research a priority.”

—Dr. Greg Elder, Medical Coordinator at Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières’ (MSF) Access Campaign

Background Information:

The World Health Organization’s Global TB Report 2015, published today, reveals some shocking statistics: TB deaths jumped to 1.8 million in 2015 from 1.5 million in 2014, with an estimated 41 percent of people undiagnosed and untreated. In 2015, just 20 percent of people sick with drug-resistant forms of TB received the treatment they needed.

The WHO Global TB Report is a wake-up call to break the status quo in how TB, including its drug-resistant forms, is being diagnosed and treated. More needs to be urgently done to close the deadly gap between those who are diagnosed and treated and those who are left behind.

*Note (added October 26, 2016): The year over year increase in deaths is partly attributable to better reporting, particularly from India.

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