Can you name the world’s leading infectious disease killer?
What is the infectious disease that kills the most people? It also surpassed HIV & AIDS in 2016
by killing 1.7 million people and making 10.4 million people sick.
“The answer is tuberculosis (TB) which surprises most people. TB is a disease most Australians
don’t even realise still exists but it affects more people than HIV and malaria.” says Maree Nutt,
CEO of RESULTS Australia an anti-poverty non-profit that advocates on TB.
Tuberculosis has been around for thousands of years and is reasonably uncommon in
developed countries but not so around the world.
This year the theme for World TB Day is Leaders for a TB Free World.
“In 2018, we are calling on people to lead the way for a TB free world – whether in the field of
science, healthcare, politics or service delivery, we need to see real leadership to turn the tide
on TB,” says Ms. Nutt.
Australia has an opportunity to lead in investment and innovation for TB research. Recent
investments through the Australian aid program have helped to develop a new formulation for
drug resistant treatment that reduced the duration of treatment from 24 months to 9 months.
This new 9 month oral only regimen reduces the number of pills, injectables and side effects
people affected with TB endure. It also helps to minimize the impact on their lives.
“Our action on TB can have a real impact,” says Ms. Nutt.
While it may seem like an overwhelming task, RESULTS makes three key recommendations to
make real change for TB in 2018.
1. Greater access to existing diagnostics and treatment for people living with TB.
Currently, two out of every five people with TB are “missing” as they are either undiagnosed or
unreported. That’s 4.1 million cases of TB where the quality of care, if there was care at all, is
simply unknown. In the case of drug-resistant TB (DR-TB), a majority of cases (78%) are
undiagnosed or unreported. We need to ensure that all people affected with TB, whoever they
are get the most up to date and appropriate care – the gold standard.
2. Improved funding for research and development of better TB tools and
The world spent US$726 million on tuberculosis (TB) research in 2016, a small increase over
previous years. However, at least US$2 billion is needed annually. TB R&D has suffered from
decades of underinvestment and scientific neglect. The Stop TB Partnership estimates that the
world needs to spend US$9 billion on TB R&D from 2016 to 2020 to be able to achieve the
globally agreed goal of ending TB by 2030.
3. A global commitment to ending TB from world leaders, including our own Prime
Minister, at the first ever UN High Level Meeting on TB being held in New York this
TB is one the world’s leading health threats, but at the current rate of progress TB will not truly
be a disease of the past until the year 2182. TB will not be resolved solely through health system
interventions. We need political leadership and commitment to change which is driven from the
highest political levels. For example, last week, the Prime Minister of India, Narendra Modi,
announced that India will eradicate TB by 2025. This is the type and level of engagement
needed from all political leaders.
The UN High-Level Meeting on TB, held in conjunction with the UN General Assembly in
September, is the best opportunity the world has ever had for leaders to commit to fighting a
disease with severe health, social, and economic consequences. We hope that Australia will
help lead the way.
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