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03/18/2013

Urgently needed: $1.6 billion per year to tackle drug-resistant tuberculosis

Multidrug-resistant tuberculosis is spreading around the world and will require $1.6 billion U.S. per year to stamp out, the World Health Organization and Global Fund announced today.

The announcement comes in advance of World TB Day on March 24, which commemorates Dr. Robert Koch's 1882 discovery of the bacteria that causes tuberculosis -- a major killer in the early 20th century (remember "consumption"?) that became curable with the discovery of antibiotics.

But today, the world is seeing a resurgence of the disease -- now in the form of drug-resistant strains. And multidrug-resistant strains. And even extensively drug-resistant strains.

Médecins Sans Frontières has a slick graphic illustrating the scope of the TB crisis:


The WHO estimates there are about 630,000 people worldwide currently suffering from multidrug-resistant tuberculosis -- and the problem will only spread further if action isn't taken.

Says Dr. Margaret Chan, Director-General of the WHO, in a press release:

“We are treading water at a time when we desperately need to scale up our response to MDR-TB. We have gained a lot of ground in TB control through international collaboration, but it can easily be lost if we do not act now.”

So what is it like to have drug-resistant TB? You can find out at TB & Me, an MSF website where patients around the world are blogging their personal stories about living with the disease.

Jennifer Yang is the Toronto Star’s global health reporter. She previously worked as a general assignment reporter and won a NNA in 2011 for her explanatory piece on the Chilean mining disaster. Follow her on Twitter: @jyangstar

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It is NOT in the profits-interests of Big Pharma to find cures.

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