A new global strategy devised by the World Health Organization (WHO) would be adopted to effectively manage tuberculosis, an infectious disease that claims the lives of nearly 1.7 million people, worldwide .
The $56 billion global plan would be launched in January and targets reduction of prevalence of TB and the associated death rate by as much as 50% by the end of 2015. If this were to be materialized, about 14 million TB related deaths would be prevented. The new proposal for effective TB management can be found in The Lancet, a leading medical journal.
The main target of the new tuberculosis programme would be towards expansion of the currently existing treatment programs in addition to improvement in the diagnostic procedure. The prevention of co-infection with HIV/AIDS would also be given utmost importance.
'The new Stop TB Strategy injects new energies to make efforts more comprehensive and effective,' said Dr Mario Raviglione, director of the WHO's Stop TB Department, expressing hope about the new plan.
Currently, TB patients are treated with the DOTS (Directly Observed Treatment, Short-course) program. This multidisciplinary strategy requires the coordination and sustained efforts of the government in addition to stringent patient surveillance measures.
Although this program is operational in 183 different countries, co-infection in HIV/AIDS patients in Africa and the emergence of multi-drug resistant tuberculosis (MDR-TB), especially in eastern Europe pose significant challenges to the success of the program. Nearly 260, 000 TB related deaths that occurred during 2004 were a result of co-infection with HIV/AIDS.
A majority of the TB patients live in highly populous countries in the Asian region. Infact, Pakistan, Indonesia, China and India account for 48% of the newly diagnosed TB cases. TB infection rate in Africa is also high.
In view of the present situation, the global strategy only calls for active research into novel treatment techniques and strengthening of local health services in underdeveloped and developing countries, which are hardest hit by TB.
'We must involve a much broader array of actors in TB control and adapt DOTS to HIV co-infection, MDR-TB and other special challenges if we're going to achieve 2015 targets of the Global Plan ..,' concluded Dr Marcos Espinal, executive secretary of the Stop TB Partnership.