Lack of urgency as TB overtakes Covid as biggest killer: expert


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After massive global efforts against COVID-19, tuberculosis has once again become the world’s biggest killer of infections, a leading expert told AFP, lamenting the lack of focus on prevention. eradicate tuberculosis.

Mel Spigelman, president of the nonprofit TB Coalition, hailed the rapid and dramatic progress in containing the COVID pandemic, with a wide range of safe and effective vaccines, tests and treatments being developed. developed over a two-year period.

“But the coincidence with tuberculosis is pretty clear,” he said in a recent interview.

Tuberculosis, once known as the consumer disease, was the world’s biggest infectious killer before COVID-19 emerged, with 1.5 million people dying from the disease each year.

With the number of COVID deaths globally falling steadily, “tuberculosis has regained its dubious distinction,” Spigelman said.

Tuberculosis Coalition, a non-profit organization working to develop and deliver affordable and faster-acting drugs against the disease, especially in poorer countries, points out that based on on annual mortality, tuberculosis kills 4,109 people every day.

That compares with 1,449 deaths a day from COVID, calculated from 40,578 deaths reported over the past 28 days on the Johns Hopkins University dashboard.

‘Big failure’

But unlike COVID, there seems to be little, and even waning, interest in TB treatment.

In fact, the pandemic has had a devastating impact on efforts to combat TB, with TB hospitals being taken over for COVID care, and closures preventing patients from coming in for diagnosis and care. squirrel.

As a result, the annual number of TB deaths increased for the first time in a decade in 2020.

“We went from what I honestly consider unbelievably slow progress, but at least progress, to a reversal,” Spigelman said.

“It’s a big setback,” he said.

While billions of dollars are thrown into the fight against COVID, global economic woes and rising geopolitical tensions have led leading donors towards the fight against TB to tighten their pockets.

Most of the Union Lao donors suddenly couldn’t commit to funding more than a year at a time and cut the amount offered, while the traditionally leading donor, the UK, provided no funding. any this year.

“I am very worried that the progress that has been made, which has been eroded by COVID … may be eroded further,” Spigelman said.

‘Game changer’

Ironically, these difficulties are coming amid a revolution in the treatment of drug-resistant TB.

About 5% of the 9.5 million people who contract tuberculosis each year are resistant to commonly prescribed antibiotics, making treatment difficult.

Until recently, “the situation with drug-resistant TB was appalling,” Spigelman said.

Patients are forced to take five to eight pills a day, and often daily injections, for up to two years, with terrible side effects and cure rates of only 20 to 30 percent.

But a new drug regimen BPaL, first approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in 2019, includes just three pills a day for six months and has fewer side effects and cure rates. 90% cure, Spigelman said.

“I think it’s really going to be a great game changer.”

‘Can be deleted’

He admits that although “we are closer to the beginning of this journey than we are to its end”, points out that resources are needed to roll out the new regimen to patients who need it. .

And with TB, resources are always in short supply.

Spigelman blamed the lack of urgency in eradicating TB because it was a “poor man’s disease”.

“If rich people around the world got it, I think we would see a very different reaction,” he said.

Currently, candidate vaccines against tuberculosis are languishing, there is no funding to develop them, and no attempt is made to launch testing as easily as the one developed for COVID.

Spigelman said that with the kind of resources poured into COVID, TB could be completely wiped out.

“If the resources are there, I bet you it can be destroyed.”

‘Has a beginning and an end’: patients hail new drug-resistant TB treatment

© 2022 AFP

Quote: Lack of urgency as TB overtakes Covid as biggest killer: expert (2022, October 23) retrieved October 23, 2022 from 10-urgency-lacking-tb-covid-biggest.html

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