How can the EU reduce the number of new TB cases?

With World Tuberculosis Day coming up, calls are being made to leaders from around the world to step up their efforts in the fight against the spread of TB. A new report from European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) and WHO Regional Office for Europe has shown that the number of new cases across the European Union has been falling at an average rate of 4.3% a year in the last decade. This is the fastest decline in the world. However, according to the TB Strategy and the Sustainable Development Goals, the EU has a target of total elimination of the TB epidemic by the year 2030. Experts have warned that although good progress has been made, there’s still a great deal to be done if Europe is to achieve this goal.

What are the main causes of epidemic in Europe?

Most experts are agreed that, within Europe, the biggest problem healthcare professionals are facing is the multidrug-resistant strain of TB – MDR-TB. The low detection rates and inadequate treatment of this strain is leading to one in four cases going undetected within the European region. And although the number of new diagnoses has increased from 33% in 2011, to 73% in 2016, this is still below the regional target of 85%. This highly resistant strain is making it difficult to eliminate TB in Europe, and successful treatment rates remain low. It’s hoped that a new laboratory initiative could help to expand access to diagnostic services and provide the most appropriate technologies in the region.

The EU’s Commitment

This year is the 10th anniversary of the “All Against Tuberculosis” declaration. As the world is getting ready for the first ever United Nations General Assembly on tuberculosis this year, it’s clear that more action needs to be taken if the EU is to reach the targets it’s set out for eliminating TB across the continent. How can this be achieved? Some of the main recommendations for speeding up progress are the development of diagnostic technology, researching new tools, improving access to new medicines and working closely with communities and patients. Ensuring those who are affected with the disease receive high quality health care, including early detection and treatment, will be one of the main drivers in reducing the number of infections.

Dr Vytenis Andriukaitis, European Commissioner for Health and Food Safety, said in a statement: “The European Commission is fully committed to helping Member States reach the goal of ending TB by 2030. I urge leaders in Europe and beyond to take a multisectoral approach to TB, mobilizing the necessary funds for research, ensuring access to preventative and curative health care for all, and addressing the social conditions that encourage its spread.”

Dr Zsuzsanna Jakab, WHO Regional Director for Europe also noted: “It is not enough to ‘walk’ towards ending TB, as this way we would arrive too late for too many people. We need to ‘leap forward’ and invest now for individual benefits and societal returns. The Tuberculosis action plan for the WHO European Region 2016–2020 shows that bold actions will save over 3 million lives and US$ 48 billion in 5 years in the Region. We need to revamp political commitment at all levels to achieve tangible and immediate results that change and save the lives of all those people suffering from TB today and ensure a TB-free world for our children tomorrow.”

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