MSF Response to Release of New WHO Global Tuberculosis Report 2014

Phil Moore


The World Health Organization (WHO) has released their Global Tuberculosis Report for 2014. While tuberculosis (TB) incidence and mortality rates from TB continue to fall, Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) notes alarming trends in the drug-resistant TB (DR-TB) epidemic and urges action to reverse course.

Key data of concern:

  • Some countries report a significant increase in the spread of DR-TB person to person, with some now reporting up to 35 percent of new cases as multi-drug resistant TB (MDR-TB)
  • Extensively drug-resistant TB (XDR-TB) is also on the rise within areas of the former Soviet Union, where it accounts for an estimated 20 percent of DR-TB cases
  • Despite an increase in confirmed diagnoses of MDR-TB, only around one in five people with MDR-TB worldwide receive proper treatment; the number of people left untreated is increasing annually

According to Dr. Grania Brigden, TB Advisor for MSF's Access Campaign, “The alarming spread of drug-resistant TB from person to person in the former Soviet Union is of critical concern, along with the growth in MDR-TB and XDR-TB cases. Access to proper treatment is drastically low: only one person in five with multidrug-resistant TB receives treatment; the rest are left to die, increasing the risk to their families and communities and fuelling the epidemic.

"This dismal news must serve as a wake-up call for governments, donors and drug companies to step-up and improve the DR-TB response today. 

"We need to see fundamental change, starting with ending retrograde practices that contribute to the spread of drug-resistant forms of TB; treatment regimens and practices must be brought in line with World Health Organization recommendations, and patients must have access to drug sensitivity testing for accurate and timely diagnosis.  More than a year after the introduction of two new TB drugs, and with repurposed drugs showing promise in XDR-TB care, most patients remain far from getting improved treatment options.  To reverse this epidemic’s course, a dramatic increase in collaboration and investment into the development of new and affordable diagnostics and treatment regimens will be essential.”

For more information about the realities of the DR-TB crisis on the ground, see the new MSF report Out of Step, due to be released on October 30, 2014. Based on a survey of eight high TB endemic countries, the report identifies five deadly gaps undermining the DR-TB response, and details what can be done to turn the crisis around, including seizing the opportunity of new and promising drugs to save many more lives.

Jackson Ashiono (33) sits in the Kibera South Health Centre in Nairobi's Kibera slum, Kenya. Jackson has been diagnosed with multidrug-resistant tuberculosis (MDR-TB). Jackson was born in Kibera, and continues to live there. He had to give up his job as a casual labourer when he found out he had tuberculosis. 'Unfortunately they did not know it was MDR. The TB treatment was not working and I was getting worse. That is when I was brought at the MSF clinic in a very critical condition, I could not walk, I was unable to talk and I was immediately put on MDR treatment' he says. 'This clinic saved my life. The treatment is free and if this clinic was not here, I am not sure I would be alive today and I appreciate the follow up and encouragement for treatment adherence. I am also grateful as this clinic opened its doors for my daughter to be tested for TB.'
Phil Moore