Awareness session on tuberculosis set up at the MSF-supported Bangassou regional hospital, Mbomou prefecture. CAR, 2023. © MSF

MSF calls on governments to use recent TB wins to beat back deadly infectious disease

The World Health Organization’s (WHO) 2023 Global Tuberculosis (TB) Report released today shows that the estimated global incidence of TB in 2022 remains unacceptably high, including for the more difficult to treat form of this disease, drug-resistant TB (DR-TB). With an estimated 1.3 million people having died from TB in 2022, and still only about two out of five people with DR-TB diagnosed and started on treatment, it is critical that countries close the significant testing gap. Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) called on governments to ensure universal access to WHO-recommended tests for all adults and children and to urgently adopt and implement the updated WHO treatment recommendations, specifically utilising the all-oral six-month DR-TB treatment regimens. Following price reductions for the TB test GeneXpert MTB/RIF Ultra – key to diagnosis and timely, suitable treatment of TB – and the TB drug bedaquiline – essential to new shorter and safer DR-TB treatment regimens – scale-up of these medical tools is now significantly more achievable.

The WHO first recommended the GeneXpert MTB/RIF as the initial test to diagnose TB in December 2010, and the shorter, safer and more effective all-oral six-month DR-TB treatment regimens BPaLM and BPaL in December 2022. In last month’s second-ever United Nations (UN) Political Declaration on tuberculosis (TB), world leaders committed to accelerate progress to end DR-TB by reaching 90% of the estimated number of people with TB with quality-assured tests and diagnosis by 2027, and by providing equitable and affordable access to all-oral shorter treatment regimens for people with DR-TB. Reaching these goals will require countries to overcome a significant funding gap: in 2022 there was only US$5.8 billion spent on essential on TB services in 2022 per WHO, which is less than half of the global target.

“Although today’s TB statistics once again highlight how TB, a neglected but curable disease, keeps killing millions of people year after year, there may be light on the horizon. Over the last three months, we’ve witnessed a striking string of good news for TB, with long-fought price reductions finally coming through for better tests and drugs, and governments meeting at the UN to promise to ramp up TB testing, treatment and prevention for their people, including children. Governments’ TB commitments now need to be turned into real actions to save lives, and to do so, the massive gap in funding for TB must be addressed,” says Dr Gabriella Ferlazzo, TB Medical Advisor, MSF Access Campaign

“MSF teams work alongside health ministries to support the scale-up of WHO-recommended TB tools and innovative diagnostic and treatment strategies, including shorter drug-resistant TB treatments. We are committed to finding ways to increase access to patient-centred TB care for children and adults, but as we continue to see the devastating impact of TB on the people in our care, and the limited financial investment in TB, it’s clear that we need governments to do more.”

“We’re calling on governments to use the WHO-recommended tools and strategies we now have to diagnose and treat everyone who needs it, and to increase funding for TB research and care, because it’s time to turn the tide on TB, stop the suffering, and save more peoples’ lives.”