Tuberculosis deaths rise for the first time in more than a decade due to the COVID-19 pandemic

Tuberculosis deaths rise for the first time in more than a decade due to the COVID-19 pandemic

The increase in the number of TB deaths occurred mainly in the 30 countries with the highest burden of TB. WHO modelling projections suggest the number of people
developing TB and dying from the disease could be much higher in 2021 and 2022. For example, approximately, 1.5 million people died from TB in 2020 (including 214 000 among HIV positive people). Challenges with providing and accessing essential TB services have meant that many people with TB were not diagnosed in 2020. The number of people newly diagnosed with TB and those reported to national governments fell from 7.1 million in 2019 to
5.8 million in 2020.

“This report confirms our fears that the disruption of essential health services due to the pandemic could start to unravel years of progress against tuberculosis,” said Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO Director-General. “This is alarming
news that must serve as a global wake-up call to the urgent need for investments and innovation to close the gaps in diagnosis, treatment and care for the millions of people affected by this ancient but preventable and treatable disease.” The second is that people have struggled to seek care in the context of lockdowns.

TB services are among many others disrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, but the impact on TB has been particularly severe. The first challenge is disruption in access to TB services and a reduction in resources. In many countries, human, financial and other resources have been reallocated from tackling TB to the COVID-19 response, limiting the availability of essential services.

Global investment for TB falls Funding in the low- and middle-income countries (LMICs) that account for 98% of reported TB cases remains a challenge. Of the total funding available in 2020, 81% came from domestic sources, with the BRICS countries (Brazil, Russian Federation, India,
China and South Africa) accounting for 65% of total domestic funding. There was also a reduction in provision of TB preventive treatment. Some 2.8 million people accessed this in 2020, a 21% reduction since 2019.  In addition, the number of people treated for drug-resistant TB fell by 15%, from 177 000 in 2019
to 150 000 in 2020, equivalent to only about 1 in 3 of those in need.

The countries that contributed most to the global reduction in TB notifications between 2019 and 2020 were India (41%), Indonesia (14%), the Philippines (12%) and China (8%). These and 12 other countries accounted for 93% of the total global drop in notifications. WHO estimates that some 4.1 million people currently suffer from TB but have not been diagnosed with the disease or have not officially reported to national authorities. This figure is up from 2.9 million in 2019.

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