- On this World TB Day, we illustrate 10 things everyone should know about tuberculosis as we build off of the last 20 years' successes and continue making strides to defeat the global epidemic.
1. Tuberculosis has a long, global history …Scientists have discovered decay in the spines of Egyptian mummies due to tuberculosis, dating from 3000-2400 BC, and DNA from a strain of TB in the lung lesion of a 1000-year-old mummy from southern Peru. The bacteria that causes tuberculosis was discovered by Dr. Robert Koch on March 24, 1882, and hailed by the New York Times as “one of the most impressive and striking achievements of the human mind.” 100 years later, the first World TB Day is held on March 24, 1982.
2. … And the disease remains a serious health threat today.Today, the majority of TB cases occur in Southeast Asia and Western Pacific Regions (56 percent), and Africa (25 percent),but the disease is still present in all regions of the world. In 2013, there were an estimated 9 million people that developed TB and 1.5 million people died from the disease.
3. Tuberculosis doesn’t respect borders.Recent TB outbreaks in California and Kansas highlight the disease’s ability to spread across national and international borders. California has a TB rate of 5.7 cases per 100,000 people (nearly double the national rate).
4. Significant investments are being made to fight TB, but more needs to be done.Funding for TB prevention, diagnosis and treatment reached $6.3 billion in 2014, almost double the level of funding in 2006. The Global Fund has consistently been the largest provider of international donor funding for TB. The U.S. government, in addition to being the largest donor to the Global Fund, also makes significant contributions to TB control efforts, and has highlighted TB as a key component of its global health investment. But more is needed – an estimated $8 billion per year in 2015 is required for a full response to the global TB epidemic in low- and middle-income countries.
5. HIV and TB have a strong – and devastating – relationship.HIV is the strongest risk factor for TB, and TB is a leading cause of death for people living with HIV/AIDS. The Global Fund now requires countries with a high burden of HIV/TB co-infection to integrate joint programming of the two diseases. This joint planning allows for better targeting of resources in the scale up of TB and HIV services, making services more effective, efficient and sustainable.
6. Drug resistance is making it more difficult to combat the spread of TB.Multidrug-resistant tuberculosis (MDR-TB) is a major challenge to the elimination of the TB epidemic. MDR-TB makes up an estimated 3.5 percent of new TB cases, and is found in all regions of the world. Only 48 percent of patients with MDR-TB were successfully treated in 2011.
7. Despite these challenges, we can end this disease.Tuberculosis is curable. Even MDR-TB cases can be treated, but of the 9 million people who develop TB each year, 3 million do not get the necessary treatment. To make treatment available to everyone, we must ensure there is adequate funding to train community healthcare workers and procure the medications needed to treat tuberculosis.
8. Technology is accelerating the fight against tuberculosis …GeneXpert is a diagnostic system that can detect TB in patients co-infected with HIV and determine the likelihood of MDR-TB in less than two hours. The system can be used outside of conventional laboratories, which means that it can make previously difficult TB diagnosis more possible for people living in rural areas. PEPFAR, USAID, UNITAID and the Gates Foundation have partnered to reduce the cost of GeneXpert testing cartridges by 40.8 percent through 2022.
9. … And new medicines offer promising potential.Bedaquiline, the first new medicine to fight TB in over 40 years, was approved by the FDA in December 2012. It has been shown to be an effective treatment for MDR-TB. TBA-354, another potential medication that has shown effectiveness against MDR-TB, entered testing earlier this year, and is the first TB drug candidate to progress into clinical trials in six years. Teixobactin, a new antibiotic, was reported in January 2015 to be effective against many bacterial infections, including tuberculosis, and would represent another potential breakthrough in the fight against growing drug resistance.