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Tuberculosis is On the Rise


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#1 LFC

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Posted 28 September 2018 - 05:27 PM

A lack of research and dependancy on decades old diagnostic tools, treatments, and vaccines are allowing a drug resistant strain of tuberculosis to rise up mostly in poorer countries where it still kills over a million people annually.

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Tuberculosis (TB) isn’t a disease Americans hear about much about these days, but that’s not true for the rest of the world. TB is currently the deadliest infectious disease, responsible for 1.6 million deaths last year, most of them in the developing world.

And that’s not the scariest part. A rapidly growing number of patients are developing drug-resistant tuberculosis, which kills more people than any other drug-resistant pathogen.

The persistence of TB is the reason the United Nations General Assembly held its first high-level meeting on tuberculosis Wednesday, which experts hope will trigger an influx of cash and attention for the treatment and diagnosis of a neglected disease.

“In the developed world, people weren’t seeing it, and that’s where most research occurs,” says Dr. Eric Goosby, the United Nations special envoy on TB, on why the disease has received comparatively so little attention. “It was something you taught medical students but didn’t really see in the United States or Canada.”

Another reason for the neglect is that other diseases grabbed much of the research community’s attention in recent years. HIV, which was responsible for approximately 1.3 million deaths last year, has seen a lot of attention and resources channeled its way for decades, and has already been the subject of three of these high-level meetings (the first of which was held in 2006). Only now are people starting to recognize just how significant of a threat TB is.

“Action isn’t guaranteed, but these meetings usually translate into more attention, and with attention comes scale and push and more funding,” Dr. Lucica Ditiu, the executive director of Stop TB, told me. Experts hope this meeting will lead to increased diagnosis and treatment of the 3.6 million people who got TB in 2017 but never received either, as well as an infusion of funding for research to further a TB vaccine and improved treatment.

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