WORLD LUNG FOUNDATION HAILS PROGRESS IN GLOBAL FIGHT AGAINST TB

More investment needed to improve diagnosis and expand existing TB programs

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World Lung Foundation today welcomed the “WHO Global TB Control Report 2010,” which reported that tuberculosis cases continued to decline globally.  In addition, it called on individual countries to do more to close current gaps in diagnosis and expand national treatment programmes to save even more lives and stop the spread of drug-resistant strains.

Dr. Neil Schluger, Chief Scientific Officer, World Lung Foundation commented: “The WHO report confirms a noticeable rise in cases of Multi Drug-Resistant TB and Extensively Drug-Resistant TB, particularly among migrants, prison populations and in certain Eastern European and Southeast Asian countries. The rise in drug resistant cases is a serious public health concern and we applaud the progress being made towards the development of new drug therapies.

“However, the rise in MDR-TB and XDR-TB is directly linked to a failure to implement effective national TB control programmes. Under-diagnosis, delayed diagnosis and non-completion of firs-line treatment are all drivers of drug resistance.  For a very modest investment, health ministries can increase use of existing diagnostic tools and expand implementation of Directly Observed Therapy, Short Course (DOTS). DOTS has an 85% success rate in treating TB, yet many countries have not yet adopted it as standard practice.

“These cost-effective strategies help to slow the spread of the disease in vulnerable communities and will help protect against drug resistant strains, which are considerably more expensive and time-consuming to treat.  As noted in World Lung Foundation’s Acute Respiratory Infections Atlas, first-line TB drugs cost as little as US$20 per person – but if the disease becomes resistant to those therapies, treatment costs can rise to US$5,000 or more.  The cost of treatment for just one XDR-TB patient in the US averages US$483,000.

“We simply cannot wait for new drugs to come to market; if we bolster existing programs, we can save lives now.  World Lung Foundation will work with our partners at local, national and international levels to help countries do just that.”

For more information about WLF’s positions and role in TB control, visit worldlungfoundation.org; more information about the drivers and treatment of TB may be found in the Acute Respiratory Infections Atlas at ARIAtlas.org

About World Lung Foundation

World Lung Foundation was established in response to the global epidemic of lung disease, which kills 10 million people each year. The organization also works on maternal and infant mortality reduction initiatives. WLF improves global health by improving local health capacity, by supporting operational research, by developing public policy and by delivering public education. The organization’s areas of emphasis are tobacco control, maternal and infant mortality prevention, tuberculosis, HIV/AIDS, asthma, and child lung health.

For more information, please visit worldlungfoundation.org.

By ANA Health Correspondent, Berlin