On Tuesday 4th June, All-Party Parliamentary Group on Global Tuberculosis member Jim Fitzpatrick MP (Labour, Popular and Limehouse) secured a debate on the rising rates of drug-resistant (DR) TB in developing countries. This was the first time that a debate had been held specifically on the infectious disease that, despite being curable, continues to kill 1.4 million people each year.
There are estimated to be almost nine million cases of TB each year, just over six hundred thousand of which are the more extreme drug-resistant strain of the disease.
The numbers will come as a shock to many, given the perception that TB was confined to the history books long ago. Unfortunately that is not the case. Even here in the UK rates of the disease have been rising since the 1980’s with around nine thousand new cases each year.
TB has been around for a long time, it is the greatest infectious killer in human history eclipsing all other pandemics, and is now evolving into an even tougher advisory. Drug-resistant (DR-TB) forms of the disease can take four times as long to treat as ‘normal’ TB cases and cost up to 450 times more in developing countries. So while DR-TB cases account for less than 10% of the global burden of the disease, the cost to treat it is, quite frankly astounding.
If this was not bad enough, very few people who contract DR-TB have access to diagnosis or treatment, meaning that the disease continues to spread. It can be passed from person to person as it is often airborne.
In a globalised world it is clear that this problem requires a global response. Mr Fitzpatrick sought to raise exactly this point and highlighted a number of key recommendations from the recent APPG TB report ‘Drug-Resistant Tuberculosis: Old Disease – New Threat’ which highlighted steps the UK could take to meet this new threat. Continue reading