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TB or not TB? Meeting Millenium Development Goals

Two billion people, or one third of the world’s population, are estimated to be infected with Mycobacterium tuberculosis, the bacteria which cause tuberculosis (TB). According to WHO’s Global Tuberculosis Control 2009 update report, in 2008 there were approximately 1.3 million TB deaths, and an additional 520,000 TB deaths among HIV positive individuals 1.

TB is an airborne pathogen, transmitted after prolonged, close contact with coughing and sneezing infectious individuals. (It would be highly unlikely to pick up TB on the bus or train!)2. After inhalation of airborne droplets containing the bacteria, M. tuberculosis generally moves to rest within the lungs, though infection of other parts of the body can also occur 3.

With WHO’s Stop TB campaign, there appears to be global co-operation to dramatically reduce the world’s TB burden. Reaching 2015 milestones is amongst the Millennium Development Goals (MDG) (Target 6.c) to target HIV/AIDS, malaria and other diseases, including TB. Compiled with data from 198 countries and covering more than 99% of the global population, the 2009 TB report update provides evidence that deaths from TB are on track to be halved by 2015 (in comparison with 1990 rates), and will likely meet MDG targets. During the past 15 years, 36 million people are thought to have been cured of TB and 8 million deaths averted. In the past 12 months, 2.3 million people, around 87% of those treated, have been cured of TB and the global 2008 target for cure of TB has been exceeded by 2% 1. While directly observed treatment (DOT) program costs ranged from $100 to $5000 in different areas of the world, WHO considers this program the ‘most cost-effective approach in the fight against tuberculosis’.

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