PAHO charges countries to advance actions towards ending tuberculosis

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A Tuberculosis skin test. (Photo: courtesy of CDC).

On World Tuberculosis Day, 24 March, the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) called on countries to urgently expand access to prevention, detection and treatment services to accelerate progress towards ending tuberculosis (TB), one of the mostly deadly infectious diseases in the world. While TB is curable with access to testing and treatment, in the Americas, 850 people become ill with the disease and around 90 lose their lives each day. “Despite the availability of new innovations for TB, including rapid tests, and shorter oral treatments for drug-resistant strains and for TB preventive treatment, many people, particularly the most vulnerable, continue to miss out,” Dr. Ruben Mayorga Sagastume, Chief of HIV, Hepatitis, Tuberculosis, and Sexually Transmitted Infections Unit at PAHO said.

As part of the World Tuberculosis Day commemoration, the World Health Organization (WHO) announced the expanded scope of the Flagship Initiative on tuberculosis, which supports fast-tracking progress towards ending TB and achieving Universal Health Coverage by 2030. As part of this initiative, PAHO and WHO are urging countries to accelerate the rapid roll-out of the BPaLM/BPaL (bedaquiline, pretomanid, linezolid and moxifloxacin) medicine regimen for drug-resistant TB treatment, which has the potential to significantly increase cure rates due to its effectiveness, lower cost and improved impact on patients’ quality of life as it is an all-oral treatment that is considerably shorter than traditional regimens.

PAHO is also calling on countries to strengthen the diagnosis of drug resistant TB to ensure timely and effective treatment, by accelerating the implementation of WHO recommended rapid molecular tests. “It is our collective responsibility to put an end to this preventable and curable disease, and there are ‘quick wins’ that countries can adopt to accelerate this”, Mayorga Sagastume added. “With the upcoming UN High-Level Meeting on TB this year, 2023 is a key opportunity to mobilize the political and social commitment required to end this scourge on our region once and for all.”

The UN high-level meeting on TB will bring together heads of state and other world leaders in September to discuss ‘Advancing science, finance and innovation, and their benefits to urgently end the global tuberculosis epidemic, in particular, by ensuring equitable access to prevention, testing, treatment and care.”

Tuberculosis is an infectious bacterial disease caused by mycobacterium tuberculosis, which most commonly affects the lungs. It is transmitted from person to person through the air. The symptoms of active TB include cough, chest pains, weakness, weight loss, fever and night sweats. In healthy people, infection often does not cause symptoms, because the person’s immune system acts to wall off the bacteria.

World TB Day is commemorated each year on 24 March to raise awareness of the devastating health, social and economic consequences of TB, and to step up efforts to end the global TB epidemic.

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