More investment is needed to beat tuberculosis – the joint most deadly infectious disease in the world – a coalition of health agencies has said.
The Stop TB Partnership said it would take $56bn (£36bn) to “eliminate” the curable disease.
It said a target set by the World Health Organization (WHO) to tackle the disease by 2030 would be missed unless action was taken.
In 2014, the WHO recorded 1.5 million tuberculosis (TB) deaths.
The partnership – which includes the WHO as one of its members – said the extra funding would:
- save more than 10 million lives
- ensure 29 million people with TB received treatment
- prevent 45 million people getting ill with TB
TB is the most deadly infectious disease, alongside HIV, figures show.
But most cases of TB can be treated with first-choice antibiotics, and the WHO hascalled the death rate unacceptable.
Most new cases are in China, India, Indonesia, Nigeria or Pakistan.
But the UK has the highest TB rates in Western Europe, according to figures from Public Health England, with 12 cases per 100,000 people.
Last month, the London Assembly said parts of the city had higher TB ratesthan Rwanda or Iraq. A third of London’s boroughs suffer from high rates of TB, with more than 40 incidents per 100,000 people.
Case study: ‘It’s a wasting disease’
Amy McConville, now 31, from west London was diagnosed with TB in 2005. She is still recovering from the effects of the illness, which caused her left lung to collapse.
“Over the course of several months, my GP diagnosed me with a series of chest infections,” she says.
“As my cough worsened, my appetite faded away.
“After nearly nine months, I got an appointment at the chest clinic, and by that point, I only weighed five and a half stone (35kg).
“The cough had developed into an awful pain in my left lung.
“I took to my bed and stayed there for weeks.
“The doctors couldn’t seem to diagnose me, and I was scared that I might never recover.
“It felt like my body was giving up on me, I was incredibly weak, I couldn’t eat, even my favourite food made me feel nauseous.
“TB is a wasting disease; it consumes you from the inside. I’d been ill for over nine months, I couldn’t remember the last time I’d had a proper meal.”
The Stop TB Partnership, which was created by the World Health Assembly in 2000, has launched a document – Global Plan to End TB 2016-2020 – in which it details its goals for the next five years, they include:
- getting 90% of all people with TB diagnosed
- ensuring 90% of those diagnosed successfully complete treatment
“TB has always been a disease of poverty, and a litmus test for our commitment to social equality and health for all,” Dr Aaron Motsoaledi, chairman of the partnership’s coordinating board, said.
“Unfortunately, its longevity has created a sense of acceptance that it is here to stay and a sense of complacency.”
He said the new plan “sets out to smash this status quo”.
Dr Lucia Ditiu, executive director of the partnership, said: “It is a global disgrace and human tragedy that TB – a curable disease – is killing around 1.5 million people per year and nobody speaks about ending it.”
- Every day, about seven Londoners develop TB symptoms (which include persistent coughing, weight loss and tiredness)
- Two billion people worldwide are thought to have latent TB infection, but many will never develop active TB unless their immune system is compromised
- TB patients must take antibiotics daily for six months
- Those with drug-resistant strains are prescribed an average of 19 pills a day – 14,000 altogether
- These can have severe, life-altering side-effects, including nerve damage, kidney and liver impairment, and loss of sight or hearing
The WHO has also said in some cases the disease is becoming resistant to antibiotics.
About three in every 100 new cases of TB could not be treated with first-choice antibiotics, it said.
Later this month, politicians from around the world are due to endorse the partnership’s plan, at the 46th Union World Conference on Lung Cancer, in Cape Town, South Africa.