The World Health Organization estimates that nearly nine million people around the world suffer Tuberculosis, which kills one-point-six million people each year. The bacterium behind the notorious lung disease was discovered more than a century ago, yet on its 125th anniversary on March 24th, also The World Tuberculosis Day, we are unable to say with conviction that the disease is vanquished.
Experts are particularly disappointed with the treatment measures, as the drugs presently in use were discovered 30 years ago. Today, these drugs are not powerful enough to kill the difficult drug resistant forms that have emerged. The worst affected areas happen to be South and East Asia, Africa and the Western Pacific regions, covering 85 percent of the world.
The leader of WHO's Stop-TB Program, Mario Raviglione, said, "It is a scandal that in 2007 with the means we have, we could potentially cure all drug-susceptible cases of TB, we still see one-point-six million deaths every year, we still see 45-hundred deaths every day. So the point here is, the world must wake up."
One reason why TB still remains a challenge, especially in countries like Pakistan, India, Afghanistan is because many fail to complete the course of treatment. Thus, the bacterium mutates into drug-resistant strains, posing one of the greatest challenges to world initiatives focused on TB eradication.
A dangerous TB strain, in the news recently, called XDR tuberculosis, was first observed in South Africa. The World Health Organization has pressed the need for an additional 650-million dollars annually from the global community to tackle XDR TB. In the words of WHO's Mario Raviglione, "XDR TB is probably the worst thing that one would ever have imagined. I've been working now in TB control for the last 15, 16 years and I can tell you that this is by far the biggest scare we have ever faced."