Shorter Treatment Options Offer Hope on World TB Day

Tuberculosis (TB) is a major cause of illness and death around the world. In 2019, 10 million people fell ill with TB and close to 1,4 million people died. It's estimated that a quarter of the global population is infected with TB - that's around 1,8 billion people. Most infected people have no symptoms and are not contagious - they have latent TB. If left untreated, latent TB infection can progress to TB disease. This risk is higher among people with HIV and children under five years of age who share a home with people who have confirmed pulmonary TB. Treatment of TB infection remains the best option to preventing those infected from getting the disease, yet very few people who are eligible for TB preventive treatment are taking it. Completion rates have generally been poor because of the long duration of regimens. Now, shorter regimens are being developed in a project involving several African countries. That's good news, as the UN reports that an estimated 1,4 million fewer people received the necessary care for TB during 2020 compared with the previous year, because of Covid-19. Latest data from the World Health Organization from more than 80 countries showed a reduction in treatment of 21% in the first year of the pandemic, compared with 2019. The biggest differences were in Indonesia (down 42%) and South Africa (down 41%).

InFocus

Tuberculosis patients at a hospital in Kenya (file image).

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