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Press Room

Political will, tobacco control and prioritization of research and funding is essential to combat TB

New York, USA – Vital Strategies today called on governments around the world to strengthen the fight against Tuberculosis (TB) by prioritizing funding for research on antimicrobial resistance and new treatments for TB; engaging in implementing public health programs, capacity building and community engagement to improve the diagnosis and treatment of this ancient threat to health and life; and acting to reduce risk factors – for example, by implementing strong tobacco control policies and encouraging the use of clean fuels for cooking and heating.

José Luis Castro, President and CEO, Vital Strategies, said: “Vital Strategies was alarmed to learn recently that TB has been omitted from the World Health Organization’s Global priority list of antibiotic-resistant bacteria to guide research, discovery and development of new antibiotics. This omission is simply unfathomable. While it is true that TB is the focus of a number of dedicated programs, our ability to combat this deadly disease is threatened by a variety of factors. We cannot let attention or resourcing slip – if anything we need to redouble our efforts.”

There is a mounting problem of anti-microbial resistance throughout the world. The pipeline of new drug treatments for TB has thinned rapidly. There has been an increase in the incidence of drug-resistant (DR-TB) and multi-drug resistant TB (MDR-TB). And there is an increasing burden of co-morbidity: TB and tobacco-related disease, TB and diabetes, and TB and HIV are particular threats.

New threats to the fight against TB include the United States’ ‘supersizing’ of the global gag rule—the order that defunds organizations that provide family planning activities. This will include programming that prevents and treats HIV, TB and malaria, and provides healthcare to families across a number of countries. Current activity to combat TB also may be adversely impacted by cuts in the USA’s federal budget. This in spite of the fact that TB is devastating from an economic as well as a health perspective.

Castro continues: “TB predominantly impacts those who are economically and reproductively active, so investing in fighting this disease makes financial sense. We encourage governments and civil society to offset the effects of the expanded global gag rule and to implement policies to reduce the risk factors that increase the risk of developing TB or dying prematurely as a result of the disease, such as exposure to polluted air from unclean cooking and heating fuels, tobacco use and exposure to second-hand smoke.

“We also encourage WHO to reconsider including TB in its priority list and call on governments to commit to supporting research and development for new treatments for TB. In countries with a high or increasing burden of TB, we call on governments to utilize the resources and assistance available to help improve TB diagnosis, control and treatment. Vital Strategies stands ready to play our part. We are proud that our Research Division is engaged in the global fight against TB and MDR-TB and reaffirm our commitment to support governments and global partners in this vital work.”

Vital Strategies’ Research Division is engaged in the STREAM Clinical Trial to evaluate the effectiveness of shorter treatment regimens for MDR-TB. In addition, the Division provides comprehensive technical assistance; undertakes and communicates operational research; builds capacity in low and middle income countries; and supports community engagement to facilitate research activities.

About Vital Strategies

Vital Strategies is a global health organization that seeks to accelerate progress on the world’s most pressing health problems. Our team combines evidence-based strategies with innovation to help develop and implement sound public health policies, manage programs efficiently, strengthen data systems, conduct research, and design strategic communication campaigns for policy and behavior change. To find out more, please visit www.vitalstrategies.org or Twitter @VitalStrat.

For further information or to arrange an interview with a Vital Strategies public health and tobacco control expert, please contact Tracey Johnston, Vital Strategies, at +44.7889.081.170 or tjohnston@vitalstrategies.org