News Feature | March 25, 2014

WHO Wants Help Fighting Drug-Resistant TB

By Marcus Johnson

The WHO is asking the international medical and pharamcetuical industries to help combat tuberculosis (TB). The organization is particularly focused on drug-resistant TB. Each year, nearly nine million people world wide get TB, but only two-thirds of those individuals receive the medical treatment they need. Furthermore, one in four individuals affected by MDR-TB, the drug resistant form of the disease, receives the necessary treatment. Margaret Chan, director of the WHO, said, “Earlier and faster diagnosis of all forms of TB is vital.”

TB remains the world’s second leading cause of death from an infectious agent. TB disproportionately affects poor people in emerging economies. India and china have the highest TB caseloads.

New technology has helped to diagnose TB more quickly and medical professionals believe that these new diagnostic tests are a step in the right direction. New tests can diagnose TB within two hours, while older diagnostic tests could take as long as three months to produce an accurate result. The WHO partnered with the Foundation for Innovative New Diagnostics for the Expand-TB project. The Foundation will provide screening technology to middle and low income countries affected by TB.

The WHO is also concerned about containing treatment costs. It can cost as much as $3,000 to treat an individual affected by the drug resistant form of TB. That number can be as high as $40,000 in wealthy countries. While the number of TB cases in wealthy countries remains low, the rates are rising in nations such as Sweden, Finland, and Great Britain.