WHO 2017 Global TB Report Highlights Funding Gaps and the Need to Accelerate Progress

The numbers are in: The latest WHO Global Tuberculosis Report shows that 10.4 million people fell ill from TB and 1.7 million died from it in 2016, including 0.4 million people who were co-infected with HIV. These new figures draw a striking conclusion: TB remains the top infectious disease killer in the world, and progress toward ending TB has stalled.

A global TB report has been published by the WHO annually since 1997 to provide a comprehensive assessment of the TB epidemic and an update of progress in the steps being taken to combat the disease.

The 2017 Report also notes that drug-resistant TB continues to be a threat worldwide, emphasizing that TB is the prime cause of deaths due to antimicrobial resistance. Last year alone, only 1 of 5 patients in need of treatment for MDR-TB were enrolled in it. The cure rate stands at a mere 54% of all MDR-TB patients who undergo treatment. As of last year, XDR-TB has been identified in 123 countries.

Furthermore, the Report depicts a large funding shortfall for implementation of TB treatment and care, as well as research. US $9.2 billion is required per year for TB implementation, however, only $6.9 billion was available for countries to use in 2016, leaving a $2.3 billion funding gap this year. Regarding funding for TB research, there is currently a $1.2 billion gap. From the 2016-2020 period, $2 billion a year is needed to fund global TB research and development, totaling to over $9 billion. In the past, from 2005-2015, only a maximum of $0.7 billion was available each year to fund TB research and development. The Report affirms that funding for TB R&D will be a major topic discussed during the upcoming WHO Global Ministerial Conference on Ending TB.

Despite a robust pipeline for new diagnostics, drugs, and vaccines, progress has been slow. To accelerate progress in our fight against this disease, more funding must be made available for greater investments in research and development, particularly for new TB vaccines. Dr. Mario Raviglione, Director of the WHO Global Tuberculosis Program at the WHO, writes that “without, eventually, an effective vaccine (pre- and post-exposure) we cannot reach the global targets” to end TB by 2030. Without a new, more effective TB vaccine, the disease burden will remain high, drug-resistance will continue to be a problem and millions of lives will continue to be lost.