By Nsunjo Erica
Tuberculosis has remained the world’s deadliest infectious killer disease according to the World Health Organization. WHO warns that there has been limited progress in scaling up access to treatment to prevent TB this year.
A new report from the WHO shows that access to TB services remains a challenge and that global targets for prevention and treatment will likely be missed without urgent action and investments following the outbreak of COVID-19.
“Equitable access to quality and timely diagnosis, prevention, treatment, and care remains a challenge,” said Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director-General of WHO.
The WHO indicated that prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, many countries were making steady progress in tackling tuberculosis (TB), with a 9% reduction in incidence seen between 2015 and 2019 and a 14% drop in deaths in the same period.
There has been a continuous drop in the High-level political commitments at global and national levels that were earlier on delivering results in the fight against TB before countries shifted all the attention to fighting COVID-19.
The new report indicates that approximately 1.4 million people died from TB-related illnesses in 2019. Of the estimated 10 million people who developed TB that year, some 3 million were not diagnosed with the disease or were not officially reported to national authorities.
The situation is even more acute for people with drug-resistant TB. About 465 000 people were newly diagnosed with drug-resistant TB in 2019 and, of these, less than 40% were able to access treatment, the situation is expected to worsen in 2020.
The WHO warns that human, financial, and other resources have been reallocated from TB to the COVID-19 response in almost all countries. These continued disruptions in services caused by the COVID-19 pandemic have led to further setbacks, data collection and reporting systems have also been negatively impacted.
According to the new report, data collated from over 200 countries has shown significant reductions in TB case notifications, with 25-30% drops reported in 3 high burden countries India, Indonesia, the Philippines between January and June 2020 compared to the same 6-month period in 2019. These reductions in case notifications could lead to a dramatic increase in additional TB deaths, according to WHO modeling.
What Is TB, Cause, Treatment?
Tuberculosis (TB), the world’s deadliest infectious killer, is caused by bacteria (Mycobacterium tuberculosis) that most often affect the lungs. It can spread when people who are sick with TB expel bacteria into the air for example, by coughing.
Approximately 90 percent of those who fall sick with TB each year live in 30 countries. Most people who develop the disease are adults, and there are more cases among men than women.
TB is preventable and curable. About 85% of people who develop TB disease can be successfully treated with a 6-month drug regimen; treatment has the added benefit of curtailing onward transmission of infection.