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Millions of TB Patients Cured

Millions of TB Patients Cured

The cure rate goal for tuberculosis internationally has been reached for the first time since the target was set in 1991.

Some 2.3 million people were cured of TB in 2008, and the cure rate of 87% exceeded the 85% global target.

Much of the credit was given to aggressive implementation of short-course directly observed therapy, the strategy of having health professionals witness first-hand that TB treatments are taken correctly.

"So that is the good news -- that 15 years of investments are bringing visible results as a result of cooperation between national programs, particularly the World Health Organization, UNAIDS, the Global Fund, and other partners," says Paul Nunn, coordinator of the WHO's Stop TB department.

TB often is seen in combination with HIV infection, and with that connection health officials reported mixed results. The 1.5 million TB patients who tested positive for HIV in 2008 represented an increase of 200,000 over the previous year. Patients coinfected with HIV account for about half the 1.8 million lives lost to TB each year, according to Nunn.

In addition, Nunn sounded the alarm about the rise of multidrug-resistant TB and the even stronger strain, extensively drug-resistant TB.

"The problem with resistance means that we might be facing a situation where our currently mostly susceptible epidemic is replaced in a decade or two by mostly multidrug-resistant disease," Nunn says.

Some $2 billion is needed to carry out the Stop TB effort in 2010, WHO officials estimate.

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