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Press Room

Donors and Governments Should Get Back to Basics on Tuberculosis

Note: World Lung Foundation united with The Union North America. From January 2016, the combined organization is known as “Vital Strategies.”

(New York, NY) – World Lung Foundation (WLF) released the following statement from Dr. Neil W. Schluger, Chief Scientific Officer, World Lung Foundation, ahead of World TB Day 2010:

“Recently, hundreds of millions of dollars have been invested in research projects to develop new drugs, diagnostics and vaccines for tuberculosis. However, no laboratory advance will save even one of the millions facing death this year and next.

Nearly 2 million people will die of TB this year alone, most in developing countries and tuberculosis cases in Africa, fueled by the HIV epidemic, are increasing rapidly. There are at least 500,000 persons in the world with multidrug resistant tuberculosis, and probably no more than 30,000 of them are even being treated.

There are three things donors and governments can do immediately to balance our search for the cures of tomorrow with saving lives today. First, they should increase support for current diagnostic techniques. A recent survey of 114 laboratories in Ghana found that the majority of microscopes, the most basic tool for diagnosis, did not work. This is inexcusable.

Second, we need to ensure adequate supply and delivery of existing medications. The pipeline of drugs in clinical stages of testing for tuberculosis is woefully short and a new vaccine is probably decades away.

Third, we can expand DOTS coverage by emphasizing recruitment and training and by investing in localized techniques for delivery.

What we have now can capture more than 70% of the most infectious cases if deployed adequately. The challenge is large, but not insurmountable. Nothing is more maddening than a cure sitting on a shelf, as people die, for the lack of funding to deliver it.”