24 Mar : The global fight to control the spread of Tuberculosis (TB) infection is under the spotlight on Tuesday with World Tuberculosis Day and of increasing concern is the growing rate of people infected by TB bacteria that is resistant to common drug treatments.
Over one-third of the world’s population is estimated to be infected with the TB bacteria, and approximately 2 million deaths and 9 million new cases of TB disease are reported each year.
TB spreads between an infected person and others through bacteria-containing droplets coughed into the air by the infected person. Despite this common mode of transmission, TB is preventable and curable.
More money and better science are urgently needed to rein in new strains of tuberculosis that are tough or nearly impossible to treat, the WHO announced on Monday in China, where the disease has long been a leading killer.
The World Health Organisation is releasing its annual update on tuberculosis on Tuesday, an event meant to raise awareness of a disease that despite being one of the world’s oldest killers still claims the lives of more than 1.5 million people every year. About 9 million people are infected, most in Africa and Asia.
"Drug-resistant tuberculosis is a growing global public health threat. We are at a turning point. We need to address it," Dr Cornelia Hennig, the WHO’s TB program coordinator for China, said at a news briefing in Beijing.
The report comes a week before the start of an international conference in Beijing focusing on ways to deal with drug-resistant TB strains.India, China and Russia, the three countries with the world’s highest number of drug-resistant TB cases, will participate.
Hennig said the spread of drug-resistant TB strains can be prevented by spending more on TB control programs and coming up with better medical tests and drugs.
Drug-resistance develops when patients are not treated properly or interrupt their treatment after they start feeling better, giving bacteria an opportunity to develop a defense against the medicines.