Long-Neglected Tuberculosis Could Be Stopped by 2030 – at a Cost of $250 Billion
In Pakistan, a healthcare worker listens to a child’s lungs for signs of pulmonary tuberculosis.

After year-long consultations, the Stop TB Partnership launched its global plan to end tuberculosis by 2030, which would involve the diagnosis and treatment of 50 million people at a cost of $250 billion.

TB, the second biggest infectious disease killer in the world after COVID-19, has been neglected by donors in the past – yet if the plan’s budget was realised, every $1 invested would yield an economic return of at least $40.

“If, instead, the status quo is maintained, TB is expected to continue to kill between 4,000-5,000 people every day, an additional 43 million people will develop TB and the cost in human life and disability would translate to a global economic loss of US$ 1 trillion,” according to Stop TB.

“The COVID-19 pandemic delivered a crystal-clear wake-up call: that we cannot ignore a disease just because it has been relegated only to the poorest parts of the world,” said Dr. Paula Fujiwara, who led the task force in charge of the development of theplan. 

“With our attention diverted—along with the absence of financial commitments—TB has strengthened its grip on our planet. But we can regain control and meet our commitments to end TB by 2030 as long as we assert our political will now.”

Tepid global response

Dr Lucica Ditiu, Executive Director of the Stop TB Partnership, said that while the global response to COVID-19 was to “plough money and resources into developing diagnosis tools, treatments and vaccines at lightning speed”, the response to TB, which infects 10 million people every year and kills 1.5 million,  “has been tepid at best”. 

“A similar airborne infectious disease, TB remains neglected, even though it is a health threat for every single person. It is in the interest of all of us to end TB,” added Ditiu.

However, she added that she was optimistic that the war against tuberculosis could be won by 2030. 

“A lot of optimism comes from what we have seen happening during COVID—it is possible to mobilize the resources –it is possible that researchers will work together, and share data to be able to develop new tools in such a short amount of time and it is possible to deploy and to organize amazing efforts at the grassroots level.”

The Global Plan highlights the need to invest in developing a new TB vaccine by 2025, and making sure that resources are available to reach adults and adolescents in countries where TB is most prevalent. 

The only TB vaccine currently available is the BCG vaccine, which was approved more than a century ago and has a very limited impact on disease prevention.

Dr Lucica Ditiu, Executive Director of Stop TB Partnership

“The proposed investment of $ 10 billion in new TB vaccines, a new tool we all are waiting for, is 10 times less than what was injected in the research and development for COVID-19 vaccines. It should be possible to have the TB vaccine,” said Ditiu.

Previous reports from the Stop TB Partnership noted that COVID-19 had cost the world 12 years of progress against TB. 

“Currently, almost 30% of funding per TB case comes from out-of-pocket costs and on average individuals with TB and their households lose 50% of their annual incomes as they suffer from and get treatment for the disease, even in places where TB services are provided free of charge,” according to Paul Mahanna, USAID’s Director of the Office of Infectious Diseases, 

“We cannot drive change without addressing the significant funding gaps that exist within high TB burden countries that result in lack of access to life-saving services and drive individuals, families and communities further into poverty.

Image Credits: Stop TB Partnership.

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