WHO marks World TB Day by calling for more support to fight MDR-TB

Michel Kazatchkine

The World Health Organization recently called for donors to increase their support to fight multidrug-resistant tuberculosis in the wake of the number of difficult-to-treat cases doubling in recent years.

In a report released to mark World TB day on March 24, the WHO and several of its partner organizations estimated that between 2011-2015, the number of MDR-TB cases could reach two million if left unchecked, according to AFP.

"MDR-TB is a threat to all countries as it is difficult and expensive to treat," Michel Kazatchkine, executive director of the Global Fund to Fights AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, said, according to AFP. "Unless we make an extraordinary effort to tackle this problem our ability to finance and secure continued progress against TB in general will be threatened."

WHO estimates place the cost of treating one million people with MDR–TB strains at $900 million over the next four years. There are currently 50,000 people receiving treatment.

There were an estimated 440,000 cases of MDR–TB throughout the world in 2008, including 150,000 deaths, AFP reports.

"Despite all the progress that has been made, the response is far from sufficient," Mario Raviglione, head of the United Nations health agency's Stop TB campaign, said, according to AFP.

MDR–TB does not respond to standard anti-tuberculosis treatments. It is more complex and costly to treat and there is an increased threat that it will spread widely, especially in the poor environments where it thrives.

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