World, Health News : The number of people infected with tuberculosis (TB) or dying from it fell in 2012, but global progress on controlling the contagious lung disease is at risk from growing drug resistance.
In its annual TB report, the Geneva-based World Health Organization (WHO) said the world is on track to meet U.N. goals for 2015 of reversing TB incidence and cutting the death rate by 50 percent compared to 1990.
Yet around 3 million people with TB are being missed by health systems, and “superbug” drug-resistant strains of the bacterial infection are putting progress at risk.
“Far too many people are still missing out on care and are suffering as a result,” Mario Raviglione, the WHO’s director of the Global TB Program, told reporters in London.
“And still the death toll from TB – a disease that is preventable and curable – is far too high,” he said.
TB is often seen as a disease of the past, but the emergence over the past decade of strains that cannot be treated with existing drugs has turned it into one of the world’s most pressing health problems.
Of all infectious diseases, only the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) that causes AIDS kills more people than TB.
In 2012, an estimated 8.6 million people developed TB and 1.3 million died from the disease, including 320,000 deaths among HIV-positive people, according to Wednesday’s WHO report, down from 8.7 million cases and 1.4 million deaths in 2011.
The WHO says $7-8 billion a year is needed for a full response to the global TB epidemic by 2015, and there is a funding shortfall of some $2 billion a year.
Raviglione said insufficient resources for TB were the biggest hurdle to further progress, but welcomed advances in the development of rapid diagnostic tools that allow patients to be quickly tested for drug-resistant TB strains.
He also praised success in the development of potential drugs and vaccines to combat TB, noting that 10 new or re-purposed anti-TB drugs are now in clinical trials. Agencies