WHO Global TB Report 2017, progress toward ending TB too slow

The overriding message from the World Health Organization’s (WHO) Global Tuberculosis (TB) Report for 2017 – published Today (30 October), is that more must be done to meet the targets set by WHO’s End TB Strategy and the United Nations’ (UN) Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in order to end the global TB epidemic.

The report shows an overall picture of high burden of disease and slow progress to make any major headway in beating TB.

In response to the launch of the report, The Union’s Executive Director, José Luis Castro, said:

“Yet again we hear that progress is too slow to end TB. We have to think differently. The TB epidemic is bigger than just a medical issue. It’s also a social, political and economic issue and we need many different types of people working effectively on this problem if we’re going to eliminate TB from the world.

"We need presidents and prime ministers mobilising resources to beat this epidemic. Politically, we need to elevate this issue to the head of state level. We’re talking about the spread of an airborne disease that is becoming increasingly resistant to the only antibiotics we have to treat it. We have no other option. At the conference of the world’s health ministers coming up in a few weeks, we need them to express how they’re going to get the heads of their countries involved in this fight. The world cannot afford to lose the battle against TB.

"We need to completely rethink our approach to research and development for TB medicines. TB treatment requires a cocktail of multiple antibiotics. So we can’t just continue testing one medicine at a time. We need to be testing whole new regimens of multiple medicines simultaneously. And we need a brand new treatment that cures all forms of TB in a month or less.”

In 2016, as in 2015, an estimated 10.4 million people fell ill with TB and TB remains the leading cause of death worldwide from a single infectious agent. The report highlights the continuing threat of drug-resistant TB: in 2016, there were 600,000 new cases with resistance to rifampicin (RRTB), the most effective first-line drug, of which 490 000 had multidrug-resistant TB (MDR-TB) – up from 480,000 in 2015. Almost half (47%) of these cases were in India, China and the Russian Federation.

The report shows that TB mortality rate is falling at about 3 percent per year and TB incidence is falling at about 2 percent per year but these figures fall below what is needed if we are to meet the first milestones of the End TB Strategy in 2020. 

For the first time, the report has looked more deeply into the broader influences on the TB epidemic, underlining the need for a wide-ranging approach that understands and addresses levels of poverty, HIV infection, undernutrition and smoking. This multisectoral approach is the focus of the Moscow ministerial meeting to be held in Russia in November, which will inform the upcoming High Level UN Meeting on TB in 2018, providing an historic opportunity to unify political action against TB.

Alongside this broad-based approach, the report recognises that the funding gap – $2.3 billion in 2017 - remains a severe obstacle to fighting TB. There is an urgent need for increased investment in research and development and pipelines for new diagnostics, drugs, treatment regimens and vaccines. More projects like The Life Prize, which offers an innovative means of incentivising the collaborative development of new treatments, are urgently required to achieve the technological breakthroughs needed to progress towards the goal of eliminating TB.

Download the full report here (PDF 8.2 MB) 

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