MPs urge action to tackle rise of TB

In the UK incidence of drug resistant TB has doubled in the last decade, now representing nearly 2% of all cases, and London has the highest TB rate of any capital city in Western Europe. Developed and developing countries are witnessing a rise in DR-TB and 15 of the 27 countries with the highest burden are in Europe.

A new report from the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Global Tuberculosis - Drug-Resistant Tuberculosis: Old Disease – New Threat - identifies the main challenges facing the UK and the world and outlines a series of recommendations for swift action where the biggest impact can be made.

The MPs make a series of recommendations including;          

  • A comprehensive strategy to combat TB in the UK
  • At least doubling the UK’s contribution to the Global Fund to fight AIDS, TB and Malaria to address the threat of DR-TB in low and middle-income countries
  • Continued investment in TB Research and Development (R&D) into new, drugs, diagnostics and vaccines.

“Whilst it has long been thought that TB was a disease that we had confined to the history books, it has never gone away and now we are faced with a man-made potential pandemic in the form of drug-resistant tuberculosis,” said Andrew George MP, Chair of the APPG on Global TB.

“This Report reinforces the message: The fight against TB needs a new sense of urgency and innovation; combined with sufficient funding – both UK and internationally - if we are to effectively tackle this ‘TB time bomb’”, said Mr George.

TB expert Professor Alimuddin Zumla of University College London warned that the widespread emergence of drug resistant TB in Asia and Eastern Europe “heralds the possibility of virtually untreatable TB”.

"This now requires visionary political leadership, increased investments into TB control programmes, and a radical shift in policymakers' perceptions, without which global efforts to control drug-resistant TB will fail,” he said.

The report highlights that while rates of resistant strains are small in comparison to the global burden of the disease (440,000 of the 8.7 million new cases each year), the financial and treatment burden is substantial. Treatment takes between 18 and 24 months to cure and the cost is staggering. In the UK treating a single case of drug resistant TB costs at least £50,000 compared with close to £6,000 in developing countries while it costs £5,000 to treat 'normal' TB in the UK and just £15 in developing countries.

In South Africa, for example, which has high rates of TB and HIV, DR-TB consumed approximately 32% of its US$ 218 million national TB budget in 2011, despite only accounting for around 2% of TB cases.

The Global Fund to Fight AIDS, TB and Malaria is the largest international donor funding stream for TB efforts, providing funds to 20 of the 27 high-burden DR-TB countries, but current funding remains insufficient to face the challenge of expanding diagnosis and treatment of DR-TB.

At a preparatory meeting of the Global Fund to launch its call for replenishment, which took place last week in Brussels (9-10 April), the Fund announced a goal of raising US$15 billion so that it can effectively support countries in fighting the three infectious diseases in the 2014-2016 period.

Forecasts presented to the conference showed that, with adequate funding, more than 18 million adults eligible for treatment could be on antiretroviral therapy by 2016, up from 8 million now; almost 6 million people could be saved from TB; and 196,000 more lives could be saved every year from malaria.
Source :      2013/4/16 09:46

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