Tuberculosis (TB) is one of the world’s deadliest communicable diseases. In 2016, World Health Organization (WHO) has reported 1.7 deaths out of the 10.4 million new cases of TB. People infected with a certain bacterium transmit the disease through coughing, sneezing, or spitting. Alarmingly, a third of the world’s population carry the disease without showing any symptoms.
Despite the medical measures implemented worldwide, primarily through the provision of vaccine for infants, the TB epidemic continues with over 1.6 million deaths each year; this number is nearly as many people as those killed by HIV/AIDS and malaria combined.
In the Philippines, over 60 people die every day due to TB. In the same 2018 report, over one million Filipinos have active TB at any given point in time. This statistics is only a fraction of the total number of afflicted people worldwide, who are usually from low to middle income countries.
However, an international team of experts from 13 nations remains optimistic about the world’s fighting chance against the disease. By 2045, the team declares that TB can be eradicated if the mobilization of efforts to do so is properly funded.
Writing for Lancet, one of the world’s oldest and most prestigious general medical journals, the experts say that the funding for research and development has to be quadrupled to around $3 billion per year. While the amount seems opulent, it is a mere expense in comparison to the $32 billion economic losses brought about by TB.
Furthermore, the projection comes with the fact that TB is preventable and largely solvable, with better screening, treatments and tools, and public awareness. Unfortunately, there hasn’t been any TB vaccine that is both progressive and commercially available in a century, which puts 800,000 people at risk of dying.
The Fighting Chance
In an effort to reduce annual tuberculosis deaths, the previous months have witnessed a series of breakthroughs which proved relevant to the experts’ declaration.
A new treatment, new vaccine, and new testing method have been utilized and resulted to considerably high success rate. While these remain as trials, experts demand consistency in order to officially come up with a line of new approaches to combat the disease. This, the Lancet adds, would cost around $10 billion annually—which can be tantamount to a 200,000 decrease in TB-related deaths.
In commemoration of World Tuberculosis on March 24, which banners the theme It’s time to end TB, the director of WHO’s global tuberculosis program Tereza Kasaeva says, via ScieDev.Net: “We commemorate World TB Day this year with an urgent call to action, because we cannot lose this special moment.”
The experts’ claim of TB eradication several years from now is ambitious, but with the unified goal to make it happen, it is achievable and realistic.
With reports from AFP.
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