World Bank Report Says TB-Afflicted Countries Gain More by Prevention

 A new World Bank research report say 22 countries with the world’s highest numbers of TB cases could earn significantly more than they spend on TB diagnosis and treatment if they join a global plan to sharply reduce TB-related deaths. Hailed by the World Health Organization, the report says such African countries could gain up to nine times their investments in TB control. However, the study also says despite recent gains in fighting TB, there were still 8.8 million new cases and 1.6 million deaths from the disease in 2005. "Without treatment, two thirds of smear-positive cases die within five to eight years, with most dying within 18 months of being infected," WHO says.

The study is titled "The economic benefit of global investments in tuberculosis control." The 22 countries with a high burden of TB are Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Brazil, Cambodia, China, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ethiopia, India, Indonesia, Kenya, Mozambique, Myanmar, Nigeria, Pakistan, Philippines, Russian Federation, South Africa, Thailand, Uganda, United Republic of Tanzania, Viet Nam and Zimbabwe, while the Global Plan to Stop TB (started by the Stop TB Partnership in January 2006) is a roadmap for treating 50 million people for TB in the next decade, saving about 14 million lives. Its goal is to halve TB prevalence and deaths by 2015, compared with 1990 levels. TB is the leading infectious killer of adults after HIV/AIDS.

"This report set out to test whether the economic benefits of TB control are greater than the costs. It turns out that likely benefits are of impressive magnitude," said Dr. Jorge Sampaio, the UN Secretary-General's Special Envoy to Stop TB and former president of Portugal. "There were already compelling reasons to fight TB, which causes massive human suffering. Now, as a further incentive, there are strong indications that investment in meeting the Millennium Development Goal related to TB carries important economic benefits," said Dr. Margaret Chan, WHO's director-general.

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