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Closing the TB Funding Gap

It has been 25 years since tuberculosis was declared a global-health emergency. But while world leaders generally agree on the need to invest in solutions, surprisingly few new TB medicines are being developed.

NEW YORK – In the 25 years since tuberculosis (TB) was declared a global-health emergency, policymakers and health-care professionals have devoted considerable time discussing ways to eliminate it. Over the last two years alone, they have held talks in Moscow, Brussels, New Delhi, and, most recently, in September at the United Nations General Assembly in New York, where they convened for the first-ever high-level meeting on TB containment.

But while leaders generally agree on the need to invest in solutions, we have surprisingly few TB medicines to show for our quarter-century of effort. The 250 million people who have been infected since 1993 – and the millions who have died – deserved better.

TB is the world’s deadliest infection, and it has been with us for a very long time. Researchers theorize that humans first acquired TB in Africa about 5,000 years ago, and that the disease then swiftly spread along trade routes to nearly every corner of the globe. Today, TB is among the world’s leading causes of death, killing approximately 1.6 million people in 2017, which was only slightly fewer than the year before. But the effectiveness of TB treatments is declining, raising concerns that drug-resistant strains are becoming more virulent.

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