Tuberculosis is making a huge comeback, as the World Health Organization (WHO) is ranking it alongside HIV as the world’s most deadly infectious disease.
A report released by WHO says each of the diseases accounted for 1.2 million deaths in 2014. The figured for tuberculosis (TB) is unacceptable for a disease that could be cured.
Medecins Sans Frontieres (Doctors Without Borders) calls the statistics “disheartening” and warns the world is “losing ground” on tackling resistant forms of TB.
Despite this, WHO’s Global Tuberculosis Report 2015 shows that the TB death rate is nearly half of what it was in 1990, and the number of infections have fallen by 1.5% a year since 2000.
Deaths from HIV/Aids have also been falling rapidly because of improved access to antiretroviral drugs.
Dr Mario Raviglione, WHO’s tuberculosis director, says tuberculosis and HIV are now competing to be the world’s number one cause of death from infectious diseases.
He says the majority of new TB cases are in India, Pakistan, China, Nigeria and Indonesia.
Globally, 2014 saw 1.5 million tuberculosis deaths, but 400,000 of them were officially counted as Aids related since they were in HIV positive patients.
WHO director-general Margaret Chan says, “If the world is to end this epidemic, it needs to scale up services and, critically, invest in research”.
Dr Raviglione agrees, said that if investment in TB matched that of HIV, then “we could have accelerated the decline in mortality”.
The report warns of the danger of TB becoming resistant to current antibiotics, as three in every 100 new cases of TB can not be treated with first choice antibiotics.
Dr Grania Brigden, from Medecins Sans Frontieres, says, “We’re losing ground in the battle to control drug-resistant forms of TB, and without considerable corrective action, the vast majority of people with multidrug resistant TB won’t ever be diagnosed, put on treatment, or cured.”
The World Health Organization’s End TB Strategy for 2016 aims to cut TB deaths by 90% by 2030.