Home NewsInternational COVID-19: Setback as global TB case search dropped by 18% in 2020

COVID-19: Setback as global TB case search dropped by 18% in 2020

by Haruna Gimba

By Zayamu Hassan

The COVID-19 pandemic has caused a setback in the global case search for Tuberculosis (TB) patients, the World Health Orgnisation (WHO) report has said.

The report revealed that COVID-19 pandemic has reversed years of progress in providing essential TB services and reducing the disease burden.

It further said that global TB targets are mostly off-track, although there are some country and regional success stories.

In a report released on Wednesday, the WHO said that the most obvious impact is a large global drop in the number of people newly diagnosed with TB and reported.

“This fell from 7.1 million in 2019 to 5.8 million in 2020, an 18 per cent decline back to the level of 2012 and far short of the approximately 10 million people who developed TB in 2020.

“Sixteen countries accounted for 93 per cent of this reduction, with India, Indonesia and the Philippines the worst affected. Provisional data up to June 2021 show ongoing shortfalls.

Reduced access to TB diagnosis and treatment has resulted in an increase in TB deaths.

“Best estimates for 2020 are 1.3 million TB deaths among HIV-negative people (up from 1.2 million in 2019) and an additional 214 000 among HIV-positive people (up from 209 000 in 2019), with the combined total back to the level of 2017.

“Declines in TB incidence (the number of people developing TB each year) achieved in previous years have slowed almost to a halt. These impacts are forecast to be much worse in 2021 and 2022.”

Other impacts, according to the report, include reductions between 2019 and 2020 in the number of people provided with treatment for drug-resistant TB (-15 per cent, from 177 100 to 150 359, about 1 in 3 of those in need) and TB preventive treatment (-21%, from 3.6 million to 2.8 million), and a fall in global spending on TB diagnostic, treatment and prevention services (from US$ 5.8 billion to US$ 5.3 billion, less than half of what is needed).

The global health body, however, said that actions to mitigate and reverse these impacts are urgently required.

“The immediate priority is to restore access to and provision of essential TB services such that levels of TB case detection and treatment can recover to at least 2019 levels, especially in the most badly-affected countries,” the report said.

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