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TB Global Fight Still Has a Way to Go

6 million lives saved from '95 to '08, but incidence rate falling too slowly to reach long-term goals

WEDNESDAY, May 19 (HealthDay News) -- Even though 36 million people worldwide were cured of tuberculosis and 6 million lives were saved between 1995 and 2008, the disease still takes a substantial toll and long-term goals for its eradication may not be met, according to a paper published online May 19 in The Lancet, the first in a series of papers on tuberculosis.

Knut Lonnroth, Ph.D., of the World Health Organization (WHO) in Geneva, and colleagues write that the gains made in the fight against tuberculosis are the result of an expansion of a WHO-recommended standard approach to diagnosis and treatment. But, they add, the incidence rate is falling at less than 1 percent annually, there are still more than 9 million new cases and an estimated 1.8 million deaths annually, and the hope of reducing incidence to less than one case per million by 2050 will not be reached with existing technologies and approaches.

According to the authors, several key challenges remain, including the lack of access to affordable and good-quality health services in some of the 22 countries that contain the bulk of the cases and the use of old technologies for diagnosis, treatment and prevention. In addition, HIV/AIDS is fueling the epidemic, and multi-drug resistant tuberculosis remains a serious threat, they write.

"Acceleration of the decline towards elimination of this disease will need invigorated actions in four broad areas: continued scale-up of early diagnosis and proper treatment for all forms of tuberculosis in line with the Stop TB Strategy; development and enforcement of bold health-system policies; establishment of links with the broader development agenda; and promotion and intensification of research towards innovations," the authors write.

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