A new report by the World Health Organisation in Geneva has revealed that Tuberculosis is much more deadly than HIV/AIDS.
The report includes staggering data—chiefly, that TB has replaced HIV/AIDS as the world’s most deadly infectious disease, measured by numbers of people who died from the illness in 2014. The report comes just as global health experts are set to convene early next week to address TB and its co-mingling with another massive illness: diabetes. Together, the two diseases present a looming co-epidemic.
Sharp Journal gathered that health officials will join leading researchers, business and technology leaders, and civil society advocates from every continent in Bali, Indonesia on 2-3 November at the world’s first international summit on TB and diabetes in an effort to avert a global health crisis.
“Indonesia has a high burden of both TB and diabetes, and the WHO report strengthens our resolve to take action,” said Indonesian Minister of Health Dr Nila Moeloek.
“We are hosting the first summit of public health leaders to urgently mobilize a global response to the double threat of TB-diabetes.”
Diabetes weakens the immune system, and triples a person’s risk of getting sick with TB—which killed 1.5 million people in 2014 according to the new WHO report. Today, 387 million people are affected by diabetes, with 77 per cent of cases in low- and middle-income countries where TB is prevalent. Diabetes is projected to affect 592 million people by 2035, which experts project will only fuel the global TB epidemic.
Recent studies have shown between 16 and 46 per cent of people living with TB also have diabetes, and many are unaware of it. With an estimated 9 million cases of TB each year, the convergence of the two diseases threatens to become a major public health crisis.
“Healthcare systems must prepare to deal with this challenge, particularly in low- and middle-income countries where the challenge is most severe,” said Anders Dejgaard, Managing Director of the World Diabetes Foundation.
“It can be done. Leadership within training and advocacy will be essential to ensure that healthcare professionals are equipped to diagnose and take care of these two diseases as they increasingly appear together in the same patients.”
The summit marks the world’s first major effort to mount a concerted defense against the looming TB-diabetes co-epidemic. Attendees will review the latest scientific and clinical information on the state of the two diseases.
They will also sign The Bali Declaration, which will commit them to taking cost-effective actions, such as the implementation of bidirectional screening: automatic TB testing for people living with diabetes, and vice-versa.
“The new WHO report should sound the alarm for leaders around the world,” said José Luis Castro, Executive Director of The Union. “We must answer this news with a global campaign to unite efforts in the fight against TB and diabetes. We cannot continue to let two preventable and treatable diseases kill millions and hinder economic development. It is time to take action.”
How TB and diabetes exacerbate each other
TB and diabetes interact with each other on a number of levels, with each disease exacerbating the other. Diabetes triples a person’s risk of developing TB. Among people who are being treated for TB, those with diabetes remain contagious longer, respond less well to TB treatment and have a significantly higher likelihood of a recurrence of TB after successful treatment or dying from the disease.
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