This week in parliament, the APPG on Global Tuberculosis (TB) launched a major new report that calls on the UK Government to take a two-fold approach to tackling the increasing public health threat of TB in the UK and worldwide.

‘Drug-Resistant Tuberculosis: Old Disease, New Threat’ identifies the main challenges facing the UK and the world and outlines a series of recommendations for swift action where the biggest impact can be made.

The report highlights concerns about drug-resistant TB  (DR-TB). Both developed and developing countries are witnessing a rise in DR-TB. Fifteen of the 27 highest burden countries are in the WHO European region, while in the UK DR-TB has doubled in the last decade. This is of great concern, not only because DR-TB is much more difficult to treat but also because, compared to ‘normal’ TB, it is much more expensive. The reports highlights that:

In the UK, treating a single case of DR-TB is at least £50,000 and in developing countries it can cost close to £6,000. This is compared to £5,000 (UK) and £15 (developing countries) for ‘normal’ TB cases.

In the report’s foreward, Andrew George MP (Chair of the APPG TB) made note of the fact that many consider TB to be a disease that has been consigned to the history books. The report reinforces the message that this is not the case. As Andrew George MP goes on to say:

The fight against TB needs a new sense of urgency and innovation; combined with sufficient funding – both in the UK and internationally – if we are to effectively tackle the ‘TB time bomb’.

Now is not the time to loosen the reigns in the fight against TB. We must do all we can to ensure that 1.4 million people per year do not continue to die of this preventable and treatable disease. In the report MPs make a number of recommendations to the UK Government which include calling for;

  • A comprehensive strategy to combat TB in the UK;
  • At least a doubling of the UK’s contribution to the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, TB and Malaria to address the threat of DR-TB in low- and middle-income countries;
  • Continued investment in TB research and development (R&D) into new drugs, diagnostics and vaccines.

Visionary political leadership and increased investments into TB control programmes are exactly what is needed to fight the disease and tackle DR-TB; the report makes this clear. We hope the UK Government and leaders worldwide take note and do all they can to help save millions of lives.

We urge to you read the report. You can access the summary version here and the full version here.