The Obama administration unveiled a plan Tuesday to address the spread of multidrug-resistant tuberculosis in the U.S. and abroad.
The White House's National Action Plan for Combating Multidrug-Resistant Tuberculosis (PDF) calls for a 15% reduction in the number of multidrug-resistant tuberculosis cases, or MDR-TB, in the U.S. by 2020 and a 25% decline in the number of cases globally.
The strategy calls for improving MDR-TB surveillance in the U.S., building better collaboration with other countries to monitor drug-resistant pathogens and the development of new medicines that provide better treatment options. The plan did not include an estimate of how much it would cost to be implemented.
Tuberculosis remains the single leading cause of death from infectious disease in the world, killing more than 1.5 million annually. Multidrug-resistant tuberculosis accounted for about 5% of TB cases globally in 2014, affecting as many as 480,000 people and killing 190,000.
Other goals in the new plan include initiating treatment of as many as half of all patients with MDR-TB in 10 countries with the highest number of cases of the infectious disease in five years, successfully treating 16 million patients in those affected areas, and reaching and sustaining a treatment success rate of 90%.
“The White House's National Action Plan is a critical step to combat multidrug-resistant TB,” Dr. Thomas Frieden, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said in a statement. “CDC sends our doctors, nurses and scientists to the front lines to find, cure and prevent TB before it develops resistance to last-line antibiotics—so we can eliminate deaths from this curable disease.”
More than half of the estimated 300,000 cases of MDR-TB reported worldwide in 2013 were in India, China and Russia, according to a 2014 World Health Organization report (PDF). Eastern European and Central Asian countries have more than a third of new MDR-TB cases and 75% of previously treated cases, the report found.
More TB patients tested for the multidrug-resistant strain last year than in any other year prior, according to the WHO, with 58% of previously treated patients and 12% of new cases tested.
The WHO has estimated (PDF) it would take $8 billion a year to strengthen the capabilities of low- and middle-income countries to effectively respond to TB outbreaks, with an additional $2 billion a year needed to research and develop drugs, vaccines and new ways to diagnose the disease.