India joins 12 other nations to launch global effort to find missing cases of TB

At the 48th Union World Conference on Lung Health in Guadalajara, Mexico, the partners from WHO, Stop TB Partnership, and the Global Fund and implementers converged to support and launch the joint effort to reduce the missed cases of tuberculosis

Image-Tuberculosis bacteria.

New Delhi: Missing TB cases and drug-resistant TB are major challenges in fighting the disease, and pose a serious threat to global health security. Deaths from drug-resistant TB – when tuberculosis bacteria is resistant to existing medication – now account for about one-third of all antimicrobial resistance deaths worldwide.

Global health partners and implementers from 13 countries with a high burden of tuberculosis launched an ambitious program to find and treat an additional 1.5 million missing cases of TB by the end of 2019. The new initiative is critically important to stopping the spread of TB and to reaching the global goal of ending TB as an epidemic by 2030.

The new effort seeks to support a combination of innovative and targeted programs, promote better use of data and evidence and expand the most successful approaches to find more missing cases of TB. It is supported by an investment of up to US$190 million by the Global Fund.

Every year, 10.4 million people get sick with TB, an entirely preventable and curable disease. Of those individuals, 40 percent do not even receive care – they are “missed” by health systems after failing to be diagnosed, treated or reported. The result is many will die or continue to be sick and transmit the disease or, if treated with improper drugs, contribute to the growing menace of drug resistance.

At the 48th Union World Conference on Lung Health in Guadalajara, Mexico, partners from WHO, Stop TB Partnership, and the Global Fund and implementers from Bangladesh, Democratic Republic of Congo, Indonesia, Myanmar, Nigeria, Pakistan, Philippines, South Africa, Tanzania, Ukraine, Kenya, Mozambique and India met to support and launch the joint effort to reduce the missed cases of TB.

“Urgent action is needed to break the transmission cycle of TB and drug-resistant TB to save millions of lives and achieve the global goal of ending TB as an epidemic by 2030,” said Dr Eliud Wandwalo, Senior Disease Coordinator, TB, at the Global Fund. “The longer the delay in finding the missed cases, the longer it will take to reach global targets.”

“This is a great opportunity for all of us to support countries in finding the missing people with TB – people who have been so far left behind in some of the most vulnerable and underserved populations,” said Dr Sahu Suvanand, Deputy Executive Director of Stop TB Partnership.

Dr Akramul Islam, responsible for TB and malaria control programs for BRAC, an NGO that implements Global Fund grants in Bangladesh, said private and public health sector providers need to work closer to identify missing cases.

“Despite all our efforts there are still too many missing cases. Without proper diagnosis and treatment of these missing cases, it will not be possible to meet our targets,” Dr Islam said.

The TB Catalytic Investment initiative includes US$115 million in matching funds designed to support country-led programs. An additional US$10 million Strategic Initiative will be used to help technical partners to develop new tools based on best practices. Finally, a US$65 million multi-country investment will address cross-border programs such as responding to drug-resistant TB among migrant workers, and providing treatment to refugees and internally displaced people.

Among other areas, investments will be used to implement systematic and routine screening among children, prisoners, migrants and people living in urban slums. It will seek to promote better use of diagnostic tools such as X-rays and GeneXpert technology and support a closer engagement between private and public sector providers to accelerate case finding, treatment and prevention.

The Global Fund will also support gender and legal assessments to help remove the main barriers to accessing TB services.