On May 19th, ‘The Lancet’ released a special series on tuberculosis, which includes a series of papers and comments highlighting the need for new tools, the threat posed by drug-resistant strains, results of current control efforts and other issues about TB worldwide http://www.thelancet.com/series/tuberculosis. While treatment strategies saved six million lives and 36 million cases of the disease were successfully treated between 1995 and 2008, TB remains a severe global public health threat. TB remains second only to HIV among infectious killers worldwide today and is the third leading cause of death among women aged 15-44.
The Lancet series also focused on the broader issues that contribute to the spread of the disease. The majority of TB cases and deaths occur in developing countries. TB proliferates in close spaces, and it perpetuates poverty by striking the poorest and most vulnerable groups. Large numbers of TB cases go undetected and untreated, fueling new cases and deaths. Making matters worse, new forms of the disease have emerged that are resistant to existing drugs. According to the report, without significant investments in new technology and prevention and treatment tools, drug-resistant strains of TB could become the “dominant” form of TB over the coming decades. In addition, new approaches to diagnose TB, coupled with improved health delivery systems and stronger community awareness, are critical to earlier detection and treatment. Urgent actions are also needed to scale up effective and integrated services for TB and HIV at the country level.
On March 24th, the U.S. Government, through USAID, released its Global Tuberculosis Strategy – our blueprint for expanded TB treatment and control over the next five years. To meet our targets, we will invest in country-led plans, scale up country level programs, increase our impact by leveraging our efforts with the Global Fund and mobilize additional resources from the private sector. We will also promote research and innovation. Our investments focus on new diagnostics that will allow us to detect TB more easily, including drug resistant TB, and new drugs that will reduce the duration of TB treatment. Assisting countries to introduce these new tools into programs is also a priority.