Worldwide death rates from tuberculosis (TB) have fallen by a third, but efforts in reporting, diagnosis and treatment still are not enough to control the disease, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).

“While the world has committed to ending the tuberculosis epidemic by 2030, actions and investments don’t match the political rhetoric. We need a dynamic, global, multi-sectoral approach,” said WHO Director General Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.

His statement came following the latest global achievements against TB. So far, efforts have saved an estimated 53 million lives, and reduced global TB mortality rate by 37 percent since 2000.

But Director Ghebreyesus said “global gaps” persist in the treatment of the pulmonary disease.

There were 10.4 million new cases of TB worldwide, and about 10 percent are people also infected with the Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) in 2016, according to the Global TB Report 2017.

“Seven countries accounted for 64 percent of the total burden, with India bearing the brunt, followed by Indonesia, China, Philippines, Pakistan, Nigeria and South Africa,” noted the organization.

In the Philippines, 4.8 million people are infected with TB, and majority of which belonged to the poorest sector, according to the Department of Health (DOH).

The disease also remains as the top killer among infectious diseases worldwide. WHO estimated 1.7 million deaths due to TB, 400,000 of which were cases comorbid with HIV.

Alarmingly, multi-drug resistant tuberculosis (MDR-TB) cases were rising. The global report recorded 600,000 new cases resistant to rifampicin - the most effective first line of defense - and nearly 500,000 of them were confirmed to have MDR-TB, WHO warned.

The global gaps WHO highlighted include under-reporting and under-diagnosis of TB, especially in countries with weak health system and unregulated private sectors. For instance, only 6 million of the 10 million infected with TB were detected, meaning there existed a gap in reporting and diagnosis of about 4 million patients.

Furthermore, only one in five MDR-TB cases started treatment, and as many as 15 percent of a million of the HIV-TB comorbid patients were not on antiretroviral therapy (ART).

Children below age five and HIV patients were said to be at most risk.

“Shortfalls in TB funding are one of the main reasons why progress is not fast enough to be on track to reach the end of TB targets,” Dr Katherine Floyd, Coordinator of WHO’s Monitoring and Evaluation Unit of the Global TB Programme, said.

Investments in low- and middle- incomes countries fall short by 2 billion of the USD 9.2 billion target fund.

An additional fund of USD 1.2 billion is needed to push new developments in vaccines, diagnostics and medications.

“Ending the TB epidemic requires action beyond the health sector to address the risk factors and determinants of the disease,” reminded WHO. MIMS

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