PENANG, Sat. - Asia's commitment to fighting the tuberculosis scourge has taken a leap forward, through the formation of a regional group for TB drug development.
Malaysia - through Universiti Sains Malaysia - will serve as the focal point in supporting efforts for a better understanding of the disease and its treatment.
In describing TB as an "ancient killer" whose deadly hold had re-emerged across the globe, Education Minister Tan Sri Musa Mohamad yesterday expressed concern over figures where eight million people had developed the disease each year.
"Drug-resistant TB continues to remain a significant challenge, especially now where TB cases have been detected in many countries, particularly in the Asian region.
"One must also not forget that millions in Asia cannot break free from their socio-economic barriers because diseases like TB, continue the cycle of poverty."
Musa was closing the First Scientific Conference in Asia of the Global Alliance for TB Drug Development.
The event, attended by USM vice-chancellor Professor Datuk Dzulkifli Abdul Razak, also saw Musa launch the Research and Development Coalition (Asian Chapter) of the Global Alliance for TB Drug Development.
The Global Alliance was launched last October as a public-private partnership for the discovery and development of new medicine for TB.
A R&D coalition of the alliance - established to co-ordinate knowledge development activities - is based at the Medical Research Council of South Africa.
In line with its vision of supporting concurrently the transfer of technology to high-burden countries, the alliance has designated Malaysia as the Asian focal point to support these processes.
TB is currently the second biggest contributor among infectious diseases to adult mortality and is responsible for about two million deaths a year worldwide.
The World Health Organisation estimates point to 30 million people dying from the disease in the next 10 years.
Malaysia saw a total of 15,051 new TB cases last year, indicating a rate of 64.7 cases for every 100,000 people.