Despite the decrease in deaths caused by the disease worldwide by nearly half, undiagnosed or poorly managed cases has led tuberculosis (TB) to outrank HIV/AIDS as the leading cause of death worldwide.

An estimated 1.5 million people died from TB last 2014, surpassing deaths caused by HIV/AIDS which was at 1.2 million globally, including 400,000 people who had both HIV and TB.

This is despite the fact that global TB incidences have decreased by 18 percent so far, falling by 1.5 percent every year since 2000.

"Despite the gains, the progress made against tuberculosis is far from sufficient," said Dr. Mario Raviglione, Director of WHO's Global Tuberculosis Program, in a press release.

Efforts to promote effective diagnosis and compliance to therapy has saved more than 40 million lives since last 2000, thanks to the establishment of the Millennium Development Goals (MDG).

While these improvements are noteworthy, Raviglione reminded healthcare workers that TB is still a global problem as they are still facing the burden of at least 4,400 people dying due to the disease everyday. This is unacceptable because in this age, most patients with the disease can be diagnosed and cured effectively.

"These advances are heartening, but if the world is to end this epidemic, it needs to scale up services and, critically, invest in research," said WHO Director-General Margaret Chan.

If that were so, then why is still there a high death rate for TB?

WHO reports that one way to address this problem is for concerned groups to find a way to close detection and treatment gaps in TB, develop new diagnostics, preventive and curative treatment options, and to relieve funding shortages in research and treatment.

The detection gap is of particularly alarming concern. Among the 9.6 million who became ill with TB last year, only 62.5 percent of them (6 million) were reported to authorities, meaning that nearly 38 percent of the cases went undiagnosed or unreported.

Even more worrying is the detection gap for cases with multiple drug resistant TB (MDR-TB). Out of the 480,000 patients who were positive for the disease, only 123,000 were reported to the national authorities. The three countries with the highest number of MDR-TB cases were China, India and Russia.

For 2016, WHO will focus the global shift from controlling TB to end the disease's global epidemic, with The End TB Strategy serving as a guide for all countries to reduce disease incidence by 80 percent and TB related deaths by up to 90 percent. With continued effort and research, WHO hopes to achieve all these goals by 2030.

Photo: Yale Rosen | Flickr

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