(AFP) – The world needs to give a massive financial boost to the fight against tuberculosis, as drug-resistant strains of the disease take hold, two international organisations warned Monday.
The World Health Organisation and the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, TB and Malaria said that an extra $1.6 billion a year was needed to bolster the battle by lifting the overall total to $4.8 billion.
Tuberculosis (TB) infects around 8.7 million people worldwide every year and kills 1.4 million.
The hardest-hit continent is Africa, where TB usually goes hand in hand with AIDS, but Eastern Europe is also a major region of concern.
Multidrug-resistant tuberculosis — known in medical jargon as MDR-TB — presents a huge threat, with an estimated 630,000 people now ill worldwide with this form of the disease.
“We are treading water at a time when we desperately need to scale up our response,” said Margaret Chan, head of the World Health Organisation.
“We have gained a lot of ground in TB control through international collaboration, but it can easily be lost if we do not act now,” she told reporters.
Chan and Global Fund head Mark Dybul said that lifting the funding level was the only way to carry out the urgent work of identifying all new cases of tuberculosis, while simultaneously making progress against existing cases.
“It is critical that we raise the funding that is urgently needed to control this disease,” said Dybul.
“If we don’t act now, our costs could skyrocket. It is invest now or pay forever,” he added.
MDR-TB emerged in a handful of countries as a result of poor quality treatment of the conventional strain and has spread to some 80 nations.
About 60 percent of cases of MDR-TB occur in Brazil, China, Russia and South Africa.