WASHINGTON – Tuberculosis is declining for the first time worldwide, driven by improvements in China and Brazil, but more cash is needed to fight drug-resistant forms of the disease, the World Health Organization said Tuesday.
A total of 8.8 million people around the world fell ill with TB last year, according to WHO’s 2011 Global Tuberculosis Control Report. That number decreased from 9.4 million people in its review of the ancient disease last year.
Deaths from TB also fell globally to its lowest level in a decade, to 1.4 million in 2010, after peaking at 1.8 million in 2003.
However, efforts to combat multi-drug resistant TB are underfunded, and the overall fight against TB is facing a $1 billion shortfall in 2012, the report said.
“Fewer people are dying of tuberculosis, and fewer are falling ill. This is major progress. But it is no cause for complacency,” said a statement by U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon.
“Too many millions still develop TB each year, and too many die. I urge serious and sustained support for TB prevention and care, especially for the world’s poorest and most vulnerable people.”
The report pointed to major gains since 1990 in Brazil, which has seen “a significant and sustained decline.” Drug-resistant TB is caused by bacteria that do not respond to the standard six-month treatment with the most effective anti-TB drugs.