Maui News

Report: Tuberculosis Could be Eradicated in 26 Years

March 23, 2019, 9:15 PM HST
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According to a report in the Lancet Global Health journal, the entire world could be free of tuberculosis by 2045 if world leaders decided in a year to invest at least $2 billion in treatment and disease prevention research.

The report was written by global TB experts and researchers, including Victoria Fan, an assistant professor of public health at the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa.

According to the university, TB kills about 1.6 million people worldwide yearly, more than any other infectious disease. However, TB can be cured with antibiotics. The new research findings show that spending money on curing TB is one of the best ways that healthcare systems around the world can invest in the health of their people.

“If we direct global resources to curing people and preventing the spread of TB, we would save millions of lives and enormous amounts of money in the long run,” Fan said.

Initially for world leaders, the costs of diagnosing and treating TB would increase in the short run, the report acknowledges. However, each life saved represents a person who can become a lasting, contributing member of their respective local economy.

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The researchers’ economic analysis showed that the concerted effort would result in a strong return on investment. For example, for every dollar spent on TB research and development in the US, there is an estimated return of $16 to $82 to the economy.

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“The goal of this Lancet Commission was to create a roadmap to a TB-free world,” Fan said. “The commission found that different countries will need different solutions. For example, in some countries, many people have TB that is resistant to certain antibiotics, so they need different plans than places where drug-resistance is less common.”

According to the report, healthcare leaders must expand strategies that are proven to diagnose and treat people with TB, like making healthcare more accessible to all populations at risk of TB. Today, 35% of TB cases worldwide go undiagnosed or are untreated.

The report also mentions that healthcare leaders should invest more in expediting research aimed at creating effective TB prevention programs and control policies.

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“Ridding the world of TB is a realistic goal,” Fan said. “Our report gives the health leaders of the world solid recommendations for action steps they can take to end this epidemic.”

The authors of the report also argue that private companies, local governments, and national leaders need to work together to drive these needed changes.

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