WHO: More action is needed to end TB

author:Global Village Observations
WHO: More action is needed to end TB

UN Photo/Loey Felipe. In 2022, 7.5 million people worldwide were diagnosed with TB.

In its Global TB Report 2023 released today, the World Health Organization (WHO) said that while the TB response is recovering strongly from the disruptions caused by the pandemic, more needs to be done to reach the goal of ending TB.

The report shows that 7.5 million people worldwide were diagnosed with TB in 2022, the highest number since WHO began global surveillance in 1995.

The increase in TB diagnosis rates is attributable to the fact that many countries have recovered well in access to and delivery of health services, the report says. For example, India, Indonesia and the Philippines accounted for more than 60% of the global decline in new confirmed cases in 2020 and 2021, but the number of new cases in all three countries in 2022 exceeded 2019 levels.

Historical opportunity

WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus recalled that for thousands of years, tuberculosis has plagued our ancestors, suffering and dying as a result of it, without knowing what it is, what its causes are, or how to stop it.

"Today, we have the knowledge and tools that our predecessors could only dream of," he stressed. We also have a political commitment and an opportunity that has never been seen before in human history: to write the final chapter in the history of TB."

The "number one killer" of people living with HIV

Globally, an estimated 10.6 million people fell ill with TB in 2022, up from 10.3 million the year before, according to the report. Of these, nearly ninety percent are concentrated in WHO's South-East Asia, Africa and Western Pacific regions.

The report also shows that in 2022, the total number of TB-related deaths was 1.3 million, including those living with HIV. While this number is down from 1.4 million the year before, the disruption caused by the pandemic caused nearly 500,000 excess deaths among people living with TB between 2020 and 2022, and TB continues to be the leading cause of death among people living with HIV.

At the same time, MDR-TB remains a public health crisis. Last year, an estimated 410,000 people developed MDR-TB, or another type of TB resistant to the antibiotic rifampicin, but only two-fifths of them were treated.

WHO says that while some progress has been made in the development of new TB diagnostics, drugs and vaccines, it has been constrained by the overall level of investment in these areas.

Off target

WHO reiterates that the global fight against TB has saved 75 million lives since 2000, but that action must be stepped up as TB remains the world's second leading infectious disease killer in 2022, after the coronavirus.

Although TB control has recovered significantly last year, progress has not been made enough to achieve the global targets set in 2018, with severe disruptions to TB services due to the pandemic and ongoing conflict.

For example, from 2015 to 2022, there was a net reduction of 19% in TB-related deaths, well below the target of a 75% reduction by 2025.

From commitment to action

At the UN General Assembly's high-level meeting on TB in September, world leaders endorsed a political declaration reaffirming their commitment to the global targets set by 2018 and setting ambitious new targets for the next five years.

The newly adopted political declaration proposes TB prevention and care for 90% of the population and WHO-recommended rapid tests as the preferred method of diagnosis of TB, in addition to a commitment by world leaders to provide a social welfare package to all people living with TB, to license at least one new TB vaccine, and to fill the funding gap for TB implementation and research by 2027.

In the report, WHO stresses that to end TB globally, these commitments must be translated into concrete action.

WHO: More action is needed to end TB
WHO: More action is needed to end TB

Read on