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Global fall in TB

Tuberculosis rates have dropped to their lowest in a decade, says The World Health Organization.

About 8.8 million people got the deadly disease last year – down from 9 million in the peak year of 2005. TB deaths fell from 1.8 million in 2003 to 1.4 million.

Still, there is not enough money channeled into multi-drug resistant TB, found the WHO's 2011 Global Tuberculosis Control Report.

"Fewer people are dying of tuberculosis, and fewer are falling ill,” said UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon.

“This is major progress. But it is no cause for complacency. Too many millions still develop TB each year, and too many die. I urge serious and sustained support for TB prevention and care, especially for the world's poorest and most vulnerable people.”

Drug-resistant TB happens when bacteria does not respond to treatment with the most effective anti-TB drugs, isoniazid and rifampicin. Just 16 per cent (46,000) of people with multi drug-resistant forms of the disease are being treated at the moment, which is serious because without treatment the patient will die and the disease is likely to spread. Even ordinary strains of TB need to be treated with a six month course of drugs lasting six months. Multi-drug-resistant TB is harder to treat because it takes years of antibiotics which are in the world’s poorest countries nearly impossible to get hold of not commonly and massively expensive. From the £0.6bn said to be needed in 2012 to fund the global fight against TB, £127,100 is for the kind.

A fast new TB test which is expected transform the diagnosis of multi-drug-resistant TB. "But the promise of testing more people must be matched with the commitment to treat all detected. It would be a scandal to leave diagnosed patients without treatment," said Dr Mario Raviglione, from The WHO's Stop TB department.

Countries with high numbers of people affected by TB, which is a major killer of people with HIV, made the most dramatic progress, the report said. These include Kenya, Tanzania, Brazil and China. Overall, the death rate dropped by 40 per cent between 1990 and 2010. And if this is kept up, all regions except Africa are on track to cut TB deaths by 15 per cent by 2015.

Margaret Chan, WHO director general  said the progress was driven by strong leadership and domestic financing, as well as generous support from donors.
"The challenge now is to build on that commitment, to increase the global effort, and to pay particular attention to the growing threat of multidrug-resistant TB,”

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