March 24, 2021
How Can We End the Tuberculosis Epidemic? 7 Key Takeaways for World TB Day
Before COVID-19, tuberculosis was the world’s deadliest infectious disease. An estimated 10 million people contracted TB and more than 1.4 million died in 2019 alone. Like COVID-19, TB is spread through the air, when an infected person coughs, speaks or sings. While TB is treatable, treatments can be lengthy, arduous and with extreme side effects, especially for types of TB resistant to the typical course of drugs.
COVID-19’s rapid and terrifying onslaught should be a wake-up call for policy makers around the world to invest in strengthened health systems that can better address epidemics of today and be ready for the inevitable epidemics of tomorrow. On World TB Day, we look to countries and cities around the world – specifically Cambodia; South Africa; Ethiopia; Karachi, Pakistan; Tomsk, Russia; and California here in the U.S. — that have made significant progress against fighting TB. While every region is different, here are the tactics and policies that have had the biggest cross-cutting impact:
- Patient-centered care and active searching for cases of TB disease and infection
- Utilization of rapid diagnostic tests for TB and sensitivity tests for drug resistance
- Treatment of all forms of TB, including drug-sensitive TB (DS-TB), multidrug-resistant (MDR-TB) and extremely drug-resistant TB (XDR-TB)
- Infection control in key settings, including hospitals and prisons
- Social and financial supports for patients so they are able to complete treatment
- Public investments in innovation for new public health tools – including improved diagnostics, shorter and tolerable treatments and an effective vaccine
- Public policies that provide appropriate funding and uphold the rights and protection of communities vulnerable to TB
To learn more, and read in-depth case studies for each location, please see our recent report: How Can We End the Tuberculosis Epidemic? Lessons from Around The World.