Tuberculosis (TB) is caused by the bacteria Mycobacterium tuberculosis, most often affects the lungs, and is spread through the air from person to person. TB may involve the brain, spine, kidney, or joints, and less commonly other organs or body systems. Almost one-quarter of the world’s population harbours latent TB, meaning they have been infected but are not yet ill with the disease. TB is the leading cause of death from a single infectious agent, and remains one of the top ten causes of death globally.
The most recent WHO Global TB Report confirms that 7 million people were diagnosed and treated for TB in 2018, meeting one of the milestones towards the UN Political Declaration Targets on TB. Although the number of new cases of TB has recently declined, the burden remains very high in the least developed nations especially in sub-Saharan Africa, and in India, China and Russia. There are an estimated 3 million people with TB who are not receiving treatment, and progress must be accelerated in order to attain the Sustainable Development Goal (SDG 3.3) of ending TB by 2030. https://www.who.int/tb/global-report-2019
In the least developed nations, the combination of limited infrastructure, severe shortages of physicians and other healthcare providers, and lack of medications precludes the effective diagnosis and treatment of many diseases including TB. Drs. James C. Johnston and Mehila Zebenigus have discussed these concerns and provided recommendations to improve care in developing regions at the American Academy of Neurology meetings and World Congress of Medical Law conferences as well as in the peer-reviewed literature. Comprehensive programs with international support and monitoring are essential, and there must be a focus on children since half of children with TB do not receive quality care and only one-quarter of children under 5 years of age in TB-affected households currently receive preventive treatment.
Another serious impediment to ending TB is drug resistance which affects half a million patients annually, with only one in three of those patients receiving treatment. WHO recently provided new guidelines for improving treatment of multi-drug resistant TB and is working with civil society organizations (CSO) to address this problem.
Global NeuroCare® is a non-profit CSO in Special Consultative Status with the UN ECOSOC and fully supports the comprehensive efforts to achieve the 2030 SDG 3.3 of ending the TB epidemic. Directors James C. Johnston, MD, JD and Mehila Zebenigus, MD provided recommendations for addressing TB and other conditions at the UN High Level Political Forum earlier this year, and at the 2018 Commission for Social Development.