The WHO strategy involves broader screening for both active and latent TB infections in high-risk groups, funding high-quality health services, and investing in new drugs, vaccines and diagnostic tests.

Features Friday, July 18, 2014 - 05:30
The News Minute | July 3, 2014 | 7:53 PM IST The World Health Organization (WHO) today launched a rich-country led framework to bring down tuberculosis (TB) infections which mainly affects middle and low income countries.  The United Nations’ (UN) health body together with the European Respiratory Society (ERS) said the model will be developed in 33 countries and territories where there are fewer than 100 TB cases per million of the population. Twenty one countries addressed by the framework are in Europe, seven in the Americas, three from WHO’s Eastern Mediterranean region and two in the Western Pacific. India, China, South Africa are the worst hit by the disease. In Europe, Russia is where the disease is growing the fastest.  The WHO strategy involves broader screening for both active and latent TB infections in high-risk groups, funding high-quality health services, and investing in new drugs, vaccines and diagnostic tests. Tuberculosis kills two Indians every 180 seconds and the country bears the largest burden of the disease in the world. An estimated 19 lakh people need treatment with over a lakh of people require multi-drug-resistant treatments. Tuberculosis is called the poor person’s disease as it affects people living in bad conditions and in poor health, immigrant workers and daily-wage earners.  "What we are after, really, is finding what we call trailblazers or model countries that would embark in a resolute way on this campaign against tuberculosis, proving that it is indeed possible to get to elimination level," Mario Raviglione, Director of the WHO’s Global TB Programme told a news briefing. The pilots developed in the rich countries could be scaled in the developing world, the WHO says.  The WHO estimates that 8.6 million people developed TB in 2012 and 1.3 million died. Some 450,000 fell ill with dangerous multi-drug resistant strains in 2012, and up to 2 million people worldwide may be infected with drug-resistant TB by 2015, it says. Many of the new infections will be in lower and middle income countries. Tuberculosis is an air-borne disease which can take up to a year to develop and early testing is critical to determine if the patient is carrying a drug resistant form. Normal treatment consist of a mix of four antibiotic drugs over six months and for a multiple drug resistant strain the treatment could last for two years and could cost upt0 $100,000 in the industrialised countries.  A totally drug resistant strain that does not react to frontline medicines has developed including in India leading public health workers to say India is sitting on a time-bomb.  Read about the Indian situation here. WHO fact-sheet on TB While TB affects some countries more than others, no country today is safe from the spreading infection. 

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