Tuberculosis is making a comeback

A new report by the World Health Organization (WHO) shows how a preventable, curable disease has become the world’s biggest communicable killer. (1) Tuberculosis (TB) now surpasses HIV/AIDS in the number of lives it claims.

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A new report by the World Health Organization (WHO) shows how a preventable, curable disease has become the world’s biggest communicable killer. (1) Tuberculosis (TB) now surpasses HIV/AIDS in the number of lives it claims.

The obvious question is “How can we let this happen?” TB is an airborne infectious disease, and if untreated, one person with TB can infect 10 to 15 others in the space of a year. The existing vaccine is largely ineffective, and there is no simple test for TB. And as with other diseases, drug resistant strains that are very difficult to treat have emerged. According to the report, 9.6 million people are estimated to have contracted TB in 2014 worldwide. Globally, 12% of the 9.6 million new TB cases in 2014 were HIV-positive. (1)

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WHO has a strategy to end TB. According to the brochure outlining the strategy, TB affects the world’s poor most vulnerable populations, exacerbating existing inequalities. (2) It is surmised that due to TB, people incur costs or suffer income loss equivalent to about more than 50% of their income. (2) While there has been progress in preventing and treating TB, there are still daunting obstacles. There has been a 47% decline in the TB mortality rate and 42% decline in TB prevalence rate since 1990. (2) However, drug resistant cases abound.

There are strategies laid out to curb the rise of cases and deaths from TB, based on pillars. (2) The first addresses integrated, patient-centered care and prevention. The second pillar has components to address bold policies and supportive systems, including powerful participation across government, communities and private stakeholders. The third pillar calls for intensified research and innovation in order to disrupt the path of the epidemic and reach the global targets. These goals require broad-based collaborations and measurement of outcomes.

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The full report, as well as the four annexes, can be accessed here. It includes an explanation of how to access and use the online global TB database, one-page profiles for 22 high TB-burden countries, one page regional profiles for WHO’s six regions, and tables that show estimates and data for key indicators for all countries for the latest year. As mentioned, new diagnostics, drugs and vaccines will be needed to achieve the targets set in “The End TB Strategy” brochure.

This article originally appeared in RDH eVillage Focus, a newsletter prepared for dental professionals looking for hard-hitting, current information. You can subscribe here.

References
1. WHO. Global Tuberculosis Report 2015. 20th edition. WHO website. http://www.who.int/tb/publications/global_report/en/. Accessed December 2, 2015.
2 WHO. The End TB Strategy. WHO website. http://www.who.int/tb/End_TB_brochure.pdf?ua=1. Published 2015. Accessed December 2, 2015.


Maria Perno Goldie, RDH, MS, is the editorial director of RDH eVillage Focus.

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