Progress on ending TB not fast enough says WHO report

Today the World Health Organisation has published the Global Tuberculosis Report 2017. The report reveals that an estimated 10.4 million people fell ill with TB last year, with 6.3 million new cases reported.

While this marks an increase from the 6.1 million new cases detected in 2015, it does not necessarily reveal that the numbers of TB cases are rising. The figures indicate that governments are getting better at monitoring and reporting cases, but also that the scale of the TB burden is even greater than previously calculated.

The threat of drug-resistant TB continues to rise, with 600,000 new cases of resistance to the most widely used treatment drug in 2016. A staggering 490,000 of these cases were multi-drug resistant and almost half of all drug-resistant cases were recorded in India, China and Russia.

TB continues to be a major cause of death for people with HIV, particularly in low-income countries. The global total of people living with HIV who started TB treatment last year was at least 1.3 million and the majority of these people live in African countries.

At present, global TB incidence is only falling by 2% per year and 16% of people with TB die from the disease. To reach the 2020 milestone set by the WHO’s End TB Strategy (35% reduction of deaths and 20% reduction in incidence), progress on detection, diagnosis and treatment must accelerate.

Despite this, there is a stark funding gap of US$2.3 billion for TB care and prevention. Financing for research and development into new drugs, diagnostics and vaccines also falls short of what is needed to curb the epidemic and meet the challenge of antimicrobial resistance.

These figures are disheartening but the report emphasises that it is still possible to end the TB epidemic. Early diagnosis and treatment can and will save millions of lives if leaders step up political and financial commitments - and fast.

The next year presents a remarkable opportunity for action on TB, with the Global Ministerial Conference on ending TB in Moscow next month and the first ever UN High-Level Meeting on Tuberculosis in 2018. The APPG TB will continue to build parliamentary support around these key moments to advance progress towards ending the epidemic of world’s deadliest infectious disease.