On Monday the World Health Organization released its 2017 Global Tuberculosis Report, and the latest picture is still one of extreme gravity, as progress to stop the spread of this disease simply isn't fast enough to make major headway: In 2016, 10.4 million people fell sick with TB, and about 1.7 million people — including 400,000 with concomitant HIV — succumbed to the deadly infection.
According to WHO, TB is the ninth-leading cause of death worldwide and continues to be the world's No. 1 infectious killer, surpassing HIV/AIDS.
"There are seven countries that are responsible for the majority of the cases of tuberculosis," says Dr. Mario Raviglione, director of the Global TB Programme at the World Health Organization. "They are India, Indonesia, China, the Philippines, Pakistan, Nigeria and South Africa. These seven countries are responsible for 64 percent of the world burden. Nearly two-thirds of the cases."
This year's report explores the burden of TB, the challenges that remain and the political commitment required to drive change, says Dr. Raviglione.
Although globally the TB mortality rate is falling at about 3 percent per year and incidence is decreasing by 2 percent per year, says Dr. Raviglione, by 2020 these figures need to improve to about 5 percent and 10 percent, respectively, in order to begin seeing some concrete results toward ending this global epidemic.
"There is this slow decline that continues, there is this huge amount of burden, and the missing part is the acceleration. We see no acceleration of the efforts against tuberculosis, and this is probably the main message emerging out of this year's report," says Dr. Raviglione. "It requires political commitment. Ministers of health and prime ministers at this point in time are now really in a situation where either they react or it will go on like this."
To reach these goals, WHO is promoting the End TB Strategy, calling for intensified action across government ministries, communities, the private sector and civil society. Progress will depend on additional resources from domestic sources (middle-income countries) and international donors (especially low-income countries), as well as investment in research and development.