Serious gaps remain in treatment of multidrug-resistant TB, says WHO report

World Health Organization director-general Margaret Chan (pictured) has warned that 8.6 million people in war-torn Yemen are in urgent need of medical help

Progress has been made in the global fight against tuberculosis (TB) but serious gaps remain in the detection and treatment of the disease, particularly multidrug-resistant TB (MDR-TB), says a World Health Organization (WHO) report.

The agency’s ‘Global Tuberculosis Report 2015’ shows that worldwide 9.6 million people developed TB in 2014, including MDR-TB, and 1.5 million people died from the disease, 390,000 of whom were HIV-positive.

Globally, TB prevalence in 2015 was 42% lower than in 1990, and the incidence of the disease has fallen by around 1.5% per year since 2000, with a total reduction of 18%, the report notes.

But senior WHO officials concede that more needs to be done.

“These advances are heartening, but if the world is to end this epidemic, it needs to scale up services and, critically, invest in research,” says WHO chief Margaret Chan. And Mario Raviglione, director of WHO’s Global TB Programme, says progress made against TB is “far from sufficient”.

The biggest gaps appear to be in detection and treatment of MDR-TB. In 2014, there were an estimated 480,000 new cases and approximately 190,000 deaths.

In 2014, 111,000 people were started on MDR-TB treatment, an increase of 14% compared with 2013, the report says, but it adds that “only 50% of patients on MDR-TB treatment were successfully treated”.

Responding to the report, Doctors Without Borders (MSF) says: “We’re losing ground in the battle to control drug-resistant forms of TB and, without considerable corrective action, the vast majority of people with MDR-TB won’t ever be diagnosed, put on treatment, or cured.”

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The Pharmaceutical Journal, Serious gaps remain in treatment of multidrug-resistant TB, says WHO report;Online:DOI:10.1211/PJ.2015.20069644

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