WHO calls for urgent action against tuberculosis

April 1st, 2009 - 4:25 pm ICT by IANS  

Beijing, April 1 (Xinhua) The World Health Organisation (WHO) has urged the countries where tuberculosis (TB) is prevalent to take urgent action to curb the spread of the disease.
Addressing a meeting here Wednesday, WHO Director-General Margaret Chan said the world faced a “precarious situation” due to the emergence and spread of drug-resistant TB.

“The situation is already alarming, and it is poised to grow much worse, very quickly,” she told health ministers and officials from more than 30 countries, who gathered at the ministerial meeting organised here by WHO.

Although the disease is preventable and treatable, TB bacillus becomes resistant to the two most powerful first-line anti-TB drugs, when the disease develops into multidrug-resistant TB (MDR-TB).

The more serious XDR-TB, a sub-strain of MDR-TB that develops from the highly drug-resistant strains, has been reported in more than 50 countries, mainly in Asia, Africa and Europe, according to the WHO.

The organisation estimated that more than 500,000 new cases of MDR-TB occurred during 2007.

“If MDR-TB is not vigorously addressed, it stands to replace the mainly drug-susceptible strains currently responsible for 95 percent of the world’s TB cases,” she said.

About 1.7 million people die from TB annually, according to the WHO, which blamed improper use of drugs for causing multi-drug resistance.

Chan urged that high priority be given to the epidemic “because national TB programmes cannot, by themselves, manage these new threats”.

She said the cost of treating MDR-TB can be as much as 200 times higher than normal TB.

As a result of the global economic downturn, “we need to look very carefully at areas of public health”, she added.

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