WHO: COVID-19 threatens progress made on treating tuberculosis

About 1.4 million fewer people received care for tuberculosis in 2020 than in 2019, according to a World Health Organization report published March 22. 

Indonesia, South Africa and the Philippines saw the largest drops in TB case notifications. 

Consequently, a half million excess TB deaths could occur, the WHO estimates, which would set the world back a decade in terms of progress on TB mortality. 

The WHO analysis is based on preliminary data from 84 countries. 

"The disruption to essential services for people with TB is just one tragic example of the ways the pandemic is disproportionately affecting some of the world's poorest people, who were already at higher risk for TB," said Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, director general of the WHO. "These sobering data point to the need for countries to make universal health coverage a key priority as they respond to and recover from the pandemic, to ensure access to essential services for TB and all disease." 

To get back on track with identifying and treating people with TB, the WHO report called for a scale-up of testing. One such strategy would be simultaneous testing for COVID-19 and TB, given the similarity of symptoms.  

The report also outlines 10 recommendations for countries to follow, including a substantial increase in TB research investments. 

To view the full WHO report, click here.


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