sputum collection bottles Yawar Nazir/ZumaPress

Taking the Offensive Against Tuberculosis

The world has a narrow window of opportunity to eradicate tuberculosis by quickly developing and disseminating new tools, including rapid point-of-care diagnostic tests, safe and fast-acting drugs, and an effective vaccine. But a dearth of donors, especially in the private sector, means that we may miss it.

SOLNA, SWEDEN – Tuberculosis is one of the world’s deadliest diseases. In 2013 alone, it accounted for 1.5 million deaths, including one-fifth of adult deaths in low-income countries. Although the estimated number of people contracting TB annually is decreasing, the decline has been very slow. And, given the increasing prevalence of multidrug-resistant TB, the trend could be reversed.

Nonetheless, the world now has a narrow window of opportunity to eradicate TB. Taking advantage of it will require the rapid development and dissemination of effective diagnostic tools, novel drug treatments, and innovative vaccines, in conjunction with efforts to ensure that health-care systems are equipped to deliver the right care. This will be no easy feat.

The good news is that the international community seems eager to act. The World Health Organization’s post-2015 Global TB Strategy, which was endorsed by the World Health Assembly in May 2014, aims to eradicate TB by 2035. The Sustainable Development Goals, which will be formally adopted in September by the United Nations’ 193 member states, foresee achieving that objective five years sooner.

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