Missed tuberculosis (TB) cases in India and China are enabling the lethal disease to spread, jeopardizing global efforts to slash new infections by 2015, the World Health Organization said. For every five TB cases diagnosed globally in 2006, four went undetected, Geneva-based WHO said on Monday in its annual global tuberculosis control report. Progress in case detection slowed globally in 2006, the most recent year for which data are available, and began to stall in China and India.
A third of the world’s population is infected with TB, which depletes the incomes of the world’s poorest communities by $12 billion (Rs48,700 crore) a year, according to the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria. The average rate at which new TB cases were detected fell to 3% a year between 2005 and 2006 from 6% between 2001 and 2005, according to the report.
“You reach a certain stage where most of the cases that are easily detectable are being detected, and now it is time for countries to step up their efforts to get those cases that are more difficult to reach,” Peter van Maaren, WHO’s Manila-based regional adviser on tuberculosis in the Western Pacific region, said on Tuesday.
Delays in finding and treating TB may prevent WHO from reaching its goal to cut TBdeaths by half by 2015 from 1990 levels, according to the report. WHO estimates 9.2 million people became infected in 2006, though only 5.1 million were diagnosed that year. Africa, Southeast Asia and the Western Pacific accounted for 83% of notified cases, it said.
India, China, Indonesia, South Africa and Nigeria had the most cases, the WHO report said. Left untreated, each person with active TB will infect between 10 and 15 people on average every year, the UN health agency says.
TB’s global spread, including to patients weakened by HIV/AIDS, is encouraging the emergence of drug-resistant strains, which now account for about 5% of new cases.
About 700,000 people with HIV were diagnosed with TB in 2006, mostly in Africa. Of the 1.7 million estimated deaths from TB, 200,000 also had the AIDS-causing virus.
(John Lauerman in Boston contributed to this story.)