New Global Drug-Resistant TB Data Demand Action from Congress

Pending Reauthorization of U.S. Leadership Against HIV/AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria Act Offers Historic Opportunity to Respond to Deadly Disease of Poverty

Washington, DC (February 27, 2008) — A new survey of global drug-resistant tuberculosis, Anti-Tuberculosis Drug Resistance in the World, strengthens the case for a major new U.S. initiative on global tuberculosis control. The World Health Organization (WHO) report is the most comprehensive to date, with data from over 80 countries.

“This report makes clear as never before the urgent and inevitable need to address drug-resistant TB,” said Joanne Carter, Associate Executive Director of RESULTS. “The only choice before Congress is whether to address this epidemic now, or when it is raging beyond our control.”

The House Committee on Foreign Affairs is expected to consider the Global HIV/AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria Reauthorization Act on Wednesday, February 27. RESULTS is calling on Congress to pass this legislation and include $4 billion in resources to control global TB control over the next five years.

The WHO report documents the highest rates ever found of multidrug-resistant TB (MDR-TB), which does not respond to the standard six-month treatment using first-line drugs. Extensively drug-resistant TB (XDR-TB), resistant to all of the most effective first and second-line drugs for TB treatment, is reported in 45 countries. Drug-resistant TB has emerged as chronic underinvestment in basic TB control has resulted in mismanaged treatment.

Although new data provide the most comprehensive description to date of the global drug-resistant TB burden, the picture is not complete. Of the 81 countries included in the surveillance report, only six are in sub-Saharan Africa. Most African countries lack the critical laboratory capacity needed to diagnose drug-resistant TB.

“The report of XDR-TB in only three African countries is not a bright spot in the global epidemic, but an ominous gap in our basic knowledge of the prevalence of these deadly strains,” said Carter.

The fight against TB is closely tied in with the fight against HIV/AIDS. TB is the number one killer of people with AIDS, and the emerging threat of drug-resistant tuberculosis threatens to undo all of the progress made thus far in addressing the AIDS pandemic.

“If we continue to ignore tuberculosis, we risk turning back the clock on years of progress in global health,” said Carter. “Congress has led the way in initial action against TB, but our efforts have not kept pace with the disease. At this critical moment, Congress must lead the way in a serious scale-up of our fight against drug-resistant TB before it is too late.”

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