The number of people killed by tuberculosis (TB) has increased for the first time in more than a decade as resources have been diverted to fight the COVID-9 pandemic.
- WHO estimates that about 4 million people live without being diagnosed with tuberculosis.
- According to Doctors Without Borders, poor countries faced test barriers due to rising test prices.
- Global investment in TB’s efforts has declined, according to WHO.
The World Health Organization (WHO) said in its annual report on tuberculosis that 1.5 million people worldwide died of bacterial disease last year. This is an increase from 1.4 million deaths in 2019.
WHO also said that far fewer people were newly diagnosed with tuberculosis in 2020, 5.8 million compared to 7.1 million in 2019.
It is estimated that about 4 million people have tuberculosis, but it has not yet been diagnosed, up from 2.9 million in the previous year.
What is tuberculosis?
Tuberculosis is caused by bacteria that often infect the lungs and is more infectious for people who have a cough or sneeze.
About a quarter of the world’s population has latent tuberculosis infection. That is, they have bacteria, but they are not sick and cannot be infected.
People who carry bacteria have a 5 to 10 percent chance of developing tuberculosis in the end.
Although the disease can be treated if detected early, the drug-resistant version is a complex treatment effort, and scientists are increasingly worried that bacteria will outpace readily available drugs.
Tuberculosis kills more people each year than AIDS and malaria. Found in Egyptian mummies, it is believed to have killed more people than any other infectious disease in history.
According to the WHO report, the most obvious effect of the pandemic on the number of tuberculosis was a global decrease in the number of newly diagnosed and reported people in 2020 compared to the previous year.
After a significant increase in the number of people diagnosed between 2017 and 2019, it decreased by 18% from 7.1 million to 5.8 million between 2019 and 2020.
The countries with the largest declines in 2020 were India (41%), Indonesia (14%), the Philippines (12%) and China (8%).
“The significant decline in TB case detection and reporting between 2019 and 2020 probably reflects a disruption in both supply and demand for TB diagnosis and treatment services,” the report said. ..
“Examples of such disruption are diminished ability of the medical system to continue to provide services, diminished willingness and ability to seek care in the context of blockages and related mobility restrictions, going to medical facilities during a pandemic. It is related to risk concerns, and similarities in symptoms associated with TB and COVID-19, including stigma. “
Poor countries struggle to access tests
Countries with the highest cases of tuberculosis include India, China, Indonesia, the Philippines, Nigeria, Bangladesh and South Africa.
Doctors Without Borders Access Campaign Diagnostic Advisor Stijn Deborggraev said access to diagnosis and treatment is restricted in many countries with high numbers of TB patients.
He said they rely on tests conducted by the American company Cepheid, which he claimed to overcharge poor countries for their tests.
Deborg Graev said Cepheid received more than $ 250 million ($ 337 million) in public investment to develop tuberculosis testing technology and couldn’t make it available to those who needed it most. Stated.
“We have actively participated in the global fight against tuberculosis,” Cepheid said, offering test cartridges to poor countries with “low margins.”
WHO points out that global investment in TB’s efforts has declined, and global efforts to reach the goal of reducing the number of people affected by the disease are “more and more out of reach. It looks like it’s there. “
ABC / AP
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