Tuberculosis is now the leading infectious disease threat in the world, killing more people than HIV/AIDS, as reported today by the World Health Organization. This should erase any semblance of doubt that we need increased resources and new tools to address the global pandemic.
Indeed, improvements in national reporting show that TB is a bigger problem than previously thought. Simply put, when we look for TB, we find it. That’s particularly true for children. This year’s Global TB Report reflects a near doubling of the estimated pediatric TB burden, with the disease taking the lives of 140,000 children and making sick at least 1 million.
The march of drug-resistant TB also continues, unabated, according to the latest statistics. Here, we can clearly see the inadequacy of our weapons in the war against TB. Only 50% of people diagnosed with MDR-TB (multi-drug resistant TB) are successfully treated. More countries have reported cases of extensively drug resistant TB, or XDR-TB, which in a large majority of cases, is a death sentence.
Increasingly, the world is beginning to understand the severity of the TB threat, and even the End TB Strategy and Sustainable Development Goals have set out aggressive targets to eliminate it. That’s an important change. Now it’s time to see the corresponding increase in funding to deliver the improved, faster-acting, and affordable TB treatments and other tools, with which we can action these plans and stop the widespread suffering and death from this disease.