World TB Day 2011 falling on 24 March is geared to step up global awareness about the epidemic of tuberculosis and to renew efforts to eliminate the disease. Though factors like growing drug resistance and the deadly connection between TB and HIV are posing a great challenge to the treatment of the disease, tuberculosis is preventable and curable if necessary precautions are taken and patients stick to the drug regimen.
It was on 24 March 1882 that Dr. Robert Koch made a great breakthrough in the diagnosis and treatment of tuberculosis by detecting the TB bacillus—the cause of tuberculosis. A third of the world's population is currently infected with TB and the World Health Organization (WHO) is networking with organizations and countries to reduce TB prevalence rates and mortality by half by 2015.
AdvertisementWorld TB Day 2011 enters into the second year of the two year campaign, "On the move against tuberculosis" focusing on innovation in TB research and care. Accelerating the campaign are fresh objectives and targets from the Global Plan to Stop TB 2011-2015: Transforming the Fight—Towards Elimination of TB, launched in October 2010 by the Stop TB partnership.
WHO TB Facts:
• TB kills more people than any other infectious disease in the world
• In developed countries TB is seen in elderly, while in developing countries it is commonly seen in young adults
• Every second, someone in the world is infected with TB
• One third of the world's population has TB now
• 5-10 % of people infected with TB (without HIV infection) become sick or infectious at some point of time in life
The TB Challenge
What makes tackling the TB menace so challenging is that the bacterium is so difficult to get at—it is slow growing, has very tough cell walls and remains hidden in body cells for a long while before it is detected. Treatment requires a drug regimen that is relatively long, requiring 4 to 6 months and breaking the intake of medicine in the middle develops drug resistant strains.
The current focus on TB elimination is aimed at developing simple, rapid TB tests, faster treatment regimens and bringing an effective TB vaccine to the market. To this end, the 2011 World TB campaign throws a worldwide searchlight for individuals who have devised new ways to stop TB and have inspired others in the fight against tuberculosis.
On the Move Against Tuberculosis
Poster sessions, symposiums and conferences are lined up at the academic level all over the world to discuss the elimination of TB. In developing countries Road Show campaigns have been arranged to visit communities, health clinics and primary health centres spreading the message to Stop TB and to remove the social stigma attached to TB patients.
While it is important for governments to ensure availability of TB drugs to patients, it is equally important for family members of TB patients, health care providers and patients themselves to stick to the drug regimen and not break medication in the middle thereby complicating TB treatment further. Only a concerted effort from all—researchers, governments, healthcare providers, TB patients and their families, the drug industry, the media and all members of the civil society, will ensure a stiff and effective fight against tuberculosis—a disease that is both preventable and curable.