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Disease Focus: Tuberculosis

Tuberculosis in Sub-Saharan Africa and South Africa

by Rubina Joshi​

TB.pdf (PDF — 153 KB)

Investing in Tuberculosis

by Jason Zheng

Tuberculosis (TB) is contagious and airborne, it remains as one of the 10 causes of death worldwide. The main cause of death is due to the antimicrobial resistance and people with HIV. According to the World Health Organization report in 2017, between the years of 2000-2016, 53 million lives were spared, resulting a 22% drop. However, there is an estimate that more than 10 million new TB case worldwide. India, Indonesia, China, Philippines, Pakistan, Nigeria, and South Africa accounted for 64% of cases.

Dr. Paul Farmer and the Co-founder of Partners In Health (PIH), passionately shares his vision on reducing TB by promoting a community-based care. This means that community health workers, nurses, and other professionals would visit patients regularly to ensure that they are on course with their TB (or any other disease) treatment. A community-based care can last up to two years, or even more. However, this allows for the disease(s) to be contained and quarantine properly by health officials.

As the world continue to make medical and technological advancements, TB evolves into a drug-resistance infectious disease. In 2017, US$ 9.2 billion of funds were directed to combat TB epidemic in low and middle-income countries. The world currently invests US$ 6.9 billion for patients who are currently diagnosed with TB, which is almost half of the military expenses in building the new aircraft carrier, the USS Gerald R. Ford. This left a funding gap of US$ 2.3 billion. However, for research and development, an additional US$ 1.2 billion is required to modernize the development of new tools.

The drugs that are available to fight TB are also improving. After over 40 years of developing and pioneering TB drugs, two drugs–Delamanid and Bedaquiline—were approved for use and made widely available in 2015, thanks to government incentives.

To ensure that we continue to pioneer new drugs to combat TB, we all have to play a part. Big or small, it makes a difference. Drug companies need to lower every treatment cost from thousands of dollars to hundreds or less. This can be done and will still allow a fair share of profit. As well, companies and organizations ranging from industry, academic institutions, international donors, and nonprofits must take more action and fund clinical trials that will help produce the best use of technology and drugs to prevent and treat TB.

Governments must see through their public proclamation. Nonprofits and development agencies must continue to support the development of countries. TB is a transnational disease, similarly to Ebola and Zika. Without investments in the health system, TB will spread until it reaches every single one of us.

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