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The Global State of Tuberculosis Cases, Treatment, and Care

November 04, 2012

Recently, the World Health Organization released its annual Global Tuberculosis Report. Written every year since 1997, the 2012 report revealed successes for tuberculosis data, but also cautioned about the stagnant state of treatment against multi-drug resistant strains of tuberculosis.

Tuberculosis cases fell 2.2 percent between 2010 and 2011 but the mortality rate has decreased 41 percent overall since 1990. The world is also squarely on track to reach Millennium Development Goal 6, reducing tuberculosis cases in half by 2015.

Still, tuberculosis is the largest infectious killer behind HIV.

According to the report, in 2011 of the 8.7 million new cases of tuberculosis women accounted for 2.9 million and children accounted for 500,000. 1.4 million died from tuberculosis last year, or roughly 3,835 people per day. Tuberculosis is one of the leading killers of women in the world. 500,000 women (both HIV negative and HIV positive combined) died from tuberculosis last year.

“In the space of 17 years, 51 million people have been successfully treated and cared for according to WHO recommendations. Without that treatment, 20 million people would have died,” said Dr. Mario Raviglione, Director of the WHO Stop TB Department in a statement. “This milestone reflects the commitment of governments to transform the fight against TB.” 

In order to control millions of new cases of tuberculosis and provide treatment to those who are already infected, $1 billion dollars is needed annually. According to Aeras, a non-profit product development organization dedicated to the development of effective tuberculosis vaccines and biologics, the cost to treat tuberculosis is rising 200 times largely due to the multidrug-resistant strain that has already spread to 80 countries.

Currently vaccines are the most promising ways to effectively stop the spread of tuberculosis and lessen the potency of the multidrug-resistant TB, but until now a vaccine has been difficult to develop. 15 vaccines have been tested in 50 clinical trials since 2005 according to Aeras’ annual report. The dedicated global effort while not resulting in a vaccine yet has created increased headway in developing TB vaccines that work and save lives.

At the current rate of care and treatment the new tuberculosis cases are likely to continue to decrease, but only if adequate funding is available.

“The momentum to break this disease is in real danger. We are now at a crossroads between TB elimination within our lifetime, and millions more TB deaths,” says Dr Raviglione.

If you are interested in reading true stories of people who live with tuberculosis, visit Doctors Without Borders blog, TB & Me: Real Stories of People Living with MultiDrug-Resistant Tuberculosis.

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