Tuberculosis control recovers from Covid-19 blow but still far from target – World Health Organization


Written by Jennifer Rigby

LONDON (Reuters) – The global fight against tuberculosis, hard hit by the COVID-19 pandemic, is starting to recover but is still far from the target, a World Health Organization report said.

During the first two years of the pandemic, there were about 4 million “missing” TB patients annually, that is, people who had TB but were not diagnosed or treated. This gap shrank to about 3.1 million in 2022, according to estimates in the United Nations agency’s annual report, that is, to the pre-pandemic level in 2019.

However, a lack of funding and focus continues to hamper efforts to end what is described as a “pandemic of the poor.” Tuberculosis, an infectious disease that usually attacks the lungs, is preventable and treatable.

Overall, an estimated 10.6 million people became ill with TB in 2022, up from 10.3 million in 2021. But 7.5 million people have been diagnosed – meaning they can get appropriate treatment – the highest number since surveillance began in 1995. According to the World Health Organization.

TB-related deaths also declined slightly, from 1.4 million in 2021 to 1.3 million in 2022. The disease remains just behind COVID-19 as the world’s deadliest infectious disease, with India, Indonesia and the Philippines particularly affected by TB.

The World Health Organization said this type of multidrug-resistant disease also remains a major threat to public health, with only two in five able to get the treatment they need.

But WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said there is hope after thousands of years of suffering, with progress in diagnostics and medicines and the first new vaccine in 100 years in the final stage of trials.

“We have an opportunity…to write the final chapter in the TB story,” he said in an emailed statement.

However, the agency acknowledged that this would need to go “all the way” with a large number of targets remaining unmet in the 2015-2022 period, including funding, diagnosis rates and reducing deaths. A high-level UN meeting in September set new targets for the period 2023-2027.

(Reporting by Jennifer Rigby; Editing by William McLean)

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