The WHO warned on Friday that the new drug resistant TB could create an "apocalyptic scenario" if it not contained. It has already affected more than 30,000 people..
The new plan from WHO and the Stop TB Partnership outlines actions they say are needed to slow the spread of multi-drug resistant TB and extensively drug-resistant TB, or XDR-TB. The new plan will cost 2.5 billion as it will help poor countries tackle issues including disease surveillance, diagnosis and treatment.
They said More than 130,000 lives could be saved if the world implements the two-year strategy to stop the growing problem of drug-resistant tuberculosis.
The new initiative lays out steps to prevent, treat and control drug-resistant tuberculosis (XDR-TB) and multi-drug-resistant tuberculosis (MDR-TB). If fully implemented, the plan, which sets out measures to allow laboratories in countries with high levels of the disease to increase their detection of MDR-TB cases, will lead to a ten-fold surge in the number of XDR-TB and MDR-TB patients who will be treated and cured under WHO guidelines.
Extensively drug resistant TB (XDR-TB), a form virtually immune to antibiotics, has been reported in 37 countries in all regions since emerging in 2006, according to the WHO. In Africa, a place which has high prevalence of HIV, it has killed 52 out of the 53 patients infected with the virus.
It was the recent case of an American man with XDR-TB who traveled abroad that triggered an international health scare. This highlighted the potential risks of rapid spread.
XDR-TB cases are particularly difficult to treat, and a patient could infect other people for years, according to Mario Raviglione, director of the WHO's Stop TB Department. It is also much more expensive to treat resistant TB. TO Treat regular tuberculosis it costs as little as $16 for six months per patient. But it costs up to $15,000 to treat one XDR-TB case for several years - with no guarantee of a cure.
"XDR-TB is a threat to the security and stability of global health," said WHO Director-General Margaret Chan. "This response plan identifies costs, milestones and priorities for health services that will continue to have an impact beyond its two-year time line."
The plan, called the Global MDR-TB and XDR-TB Response Plan 2007-2008, also jumpstarts efforts towards reaching a 2015 goal of providing access to drugs and testing to all patients affected by these two disease types, potentially rescuing the lives of 1.2 million people.
It also underscores the urgency with which basic tuberculosis control and investment in crucial areas - such as bolstering diagnostic laboratories, increasing infection control and surveillance and stepping up funding for research - are needed.
The U.S. House of Representatives today approved an amendment to the Fiscal Year 2008 State, Foreign Operations Appropriations Bill offered by Congressman Donald M. Payne, Chairman of the Subcommittee on Africa and Global Health. The amendment makes available an additional $50 million in the Child Survival and Health Programs Fund specifically for the prevention, control and treatment of Extremely Drug-Resistant Tuberculosis (XDR-TB). With the additional money, the Agency for International Development could provide much needed resources in Africa and elsewhere to strengthen basic TB control, strengthen lab capacity to detect drug resistance, and scale-up capacity to treat drug resistant strains.
A key element of the scheme is a steady supply of quality drugs to treat tuberculosis in underserved countries from the Global Drug Facility, which, since its establishment in 2006, distributes more anti-tuberculosis drugs free of charge to poor countries than any other group.