tb bacteriumEvery year the World Health Organization releases its global report on tuberculosis. For the past few years, this has provided sobering reading. Tuberculosis is the biggest killer among infectious diseases, surpassing both AIDS and malaria. In 2016, there were 1.7 million deaths from TB, including 250,000 children. Although deaths from TB are slowly decreasing, the number of new cases was still reported at a staggering 10.4 million, which does not include patients still being treated or people with latent infection.

Another major problem is drug resistance. The World Health Organization estimated 600,000 cases with multiple drug resistance, of which only one-fifth receive proper treatment. Much attention is now being paid to antimicrobial resistance (AMR); in fact, Nov. 13-19, 2017, is being observed as World Antibiotic Week with a focus on the responsible use of antibiotics that can help reduce the threat of resistance. But, keep in mind, TB is the major killer in AMR infections.

The current United Nations Sustainable Development Goals include the aim of ending the TB epidemic by 2030 , but at the current rate of decrease of only 1.5% per year, this is not achievable. To reach this important aim, additional investment is needed – the current funding gap is about $2 billion.

The global TB problem cannot be solved by a single intervention, so we must develop new rapid diagnostics, better drugs, drugs for latent infection, and a vaccine. That’s a pretty long and challenging list.

Read more about IDRI’s recent efforts in all these areas here.