The study also highlights the need to develop new vaccines and treatments that target the large number of latent TB cases worldwide and to work in conjunction with treatments aimed at active forms of the disease, according to the researchers.
For the study, Chris Dye, TB department coordinator at the World Health Organization, and colleagues used mathematical models and found that treatments focusing on getting people with TB on a course of drugs as quickly as possible is not enough to eradicate the disease by 2050.
The study -- which excluded Africa because a large number of TB cases on the continent are related to HIV/AIDS -- found that adding new vaccines and drugs that target latent TB could be up to seven times more effective.
"The main way health officials around the world [currently] go about attacking TB is by putting in place these effective treatment programs," Dye said. He added, "The question we ask is whether that is going to be enough to eliminate it by the end of the century.
Based on the mathematical modeling, the answer we get is it is not going to be possible." Dye said he hopes the study's findings that reveal the benefits of combined treatments prompt pharmaceutical companies, governments and donors, such as the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, to devote more money toward fighting TB.
"People are working on developing new vaccines and other drugs, but how quickly we get these tools depends on how much people invest, and that will depend on how much of a benefit they think it will make," Dye said.
Source: Kaiser Family Foundation