November 2, 2022

In The News: WHO: TB Deaths, Disease, Treatment Resistance Continued to Increase in 2021

In an article covering the WHO’s 2022 Global TB Report, Healio relays the fight against tuberculosis had nearly a decade of progress negatively affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. Declines in cases and deaths have seen reversals of fortune beginning in 2020. As a result, the global effort to combat tuberculosis has fallen behind on nearly all projected goals.

COVID-19 disrupted every aspect of care and joined the ranks of armed conflict, food insecurity, political and economic instability, in obstructing TB treatment or diagnosis. Tuberculosis has long been a low-priority, high-morbidity infectious disease around the globe. The WHO report features data increases in incidence, mortality (including those with HIV), and resistance.

WHO estimates 10.6 million people were diagnosed with TB in 2021 (an increase of 4.5% from 2020), with 11% of those cases were in children. There were also 1.6 million deaths attributed to TB, approximately 100,000 more than in 2020, and 187,000 of those deaths in people with HIV. Adding to the burden, drug-resistant TB cases also rose by 3% with 450,000 cases of rifampicin-resistant TB reported in 2021. While cases and deaths were up, funding for TB services decreased over this period, currently half of the global target for 2022. Funding for the development of new diagnostics, drugs and vaccines also falls almost half of its target.

Despite the setbacks, experts in the article see great potential for the future fight against TB. While there is no broadly effective vaccine, there are promising vaccine candidates and the bad news in the report could be a catalyst to increased government spending. Additionally, there are shorter and more effective treatments available for drug-resistant TB, prevention treatments, and better detection. It is hoped these will lead to TB being prioritized and invested in to end the disease.

PIDS member and JPIDS Supplement Editor Andrew Handel commented on the story, “Tuberculosis is a devastating disease among children, leading to hundreds of thousands of avoidable deaths annually. As underscored by the WHO’s report, the situation worsened substantially throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. Monday’s JPIDS supplement serves as a powerful tool for clinicians, policymakers, and other stakeholders for combating TB.”

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