Tuberculosis on the decline in Europe, yet growth in drug-resistance

Small increase in TB-patients in the Netherlands

The Hague – The number of TB patients in the WHO region Europe has declined by 4.3% annually between 2011-2015, according to a report by the World Health Organization Europe (WHO Europe) and the European Centre for Disease prevention and Control (ECDC). Furthermore, the disease claimed 8.5% fewer lives. Despite these declining numbers, there is again an increase in the number of drug-resistant-TB patients. It is estimated that one in five multi-drug-resistant tuberculosis (MDR-TB) patients now resides in the WHO Europe region.

Tuberculosis is the single most important infectious cause of mortality in the world and a global health issue. Every day nearly five thousand people die of tuberculosis. According to Dr. Kitty van Weezenbeek, Executive Director of the KNCV Tuberculosis Foundation: “1.8 million lives lost every year. That is unacceptable for a disease which we can successfully treat. That number needs to be lowered drastically. In addition, the rise of drug-resistance poses an enormous threat. Recently, for the first time in over forty years, new drugs have become available for treating MDR-TB. Now it’s important to ensure we apply these drugs in a safe way, in order to prevent new forms of drug-resistance to emerge.”

In Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan, KNCV Tuberculosis Foundation has started making shorter and better treatments available through a USAID-funded Challenge TB project. For some patients, this means that MDR-TB treatment would now take nine months instead of almost two years. A shorter treatment increases the chance people complete their treatment. Soon, more countries will follow as part of KNCV’s commitment and continuing efforts to working directly with countries to end the global TB-epidemic.

Slight increase in Tuberculosis in the Netherlands
In 2016, 889 patients were diagnosed with TB according to numbers published by the Dutch National Institute for Public Health and the Environment. This represents a 3% increase compared to 2015 (861 patients) and a 9% increase compared to 2014 (815 patients). Among these patients, 13 were diagnosed with multi-drug-resistant tuberculosis (MDR-TB) in 2016 compared to 10 in 2015. Despite the slight increase in numbers in the Netherlands, the spread of tuberculosis is well-controlled because of an effective public system that comprehensively addresses case finding, treatment and prevention strategies.

March 24th: World TB day
The 24th of March is celebrated globally as World Tuberculosis Day, when people from across the world demand attention for the fight against tuberculosis. This event is celebrated widely by KNCV, its partners and country offices and in the Netherlands.

KNCV has been fighting TB since its establishment in 1903. Over the past 117 years, the organization has acquired indispensable knowledge and experience in the field of effective TB control, resulting in pre-elimination in the Netherlands and significant contributions to global evidence generation, policy development and TB program implementation worldwide.

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Tuberculosis is still one of the major causes of preventable death in the world and claims over 4000 lives a day, leading to over 1,5 million deaths a year.

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