Lack of testing and proper treatment increasing the dangers of tuberculosis, says WHO report

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At Basabelo TB Hospital in Maseru, Lesotho, Dr Askar Yedilayev inspects the mouth of a patient who is infected with MDR-TB. (WHO/Dominic Chavez)

Three million people who developed tuberculosis in 2012 are not receiving any treatment, according to a report by the World Health Organization, which also says that diagnosis and treatment of hundreds of thousands of others with multidrug-resistant TB, known as MDR-TB, is inadequate.

Dr Karin Weyer, from WHO's Global TB Programme, says that these two major challenges need to be addressed – identifying the 'missing' three million people who are thought to have the disease but are slipping through health systems and improving the testing and treatment for people with MDR-TB. She says a shortage of drugs and properly trained medical teams compound the problems.

"We simply don't have enough doctors and nurses to manage drug resistant TB. It's complicated. Patients have serious side effects that have to be managed. And we see critical shortages in healthcare staff to manage these patients. And as a result many patients die while they are on the waiting lists and of course they also spread MDR-TB."

An estimated 450,000 people fell ill with multidrug-resistant TB last year but only 94,000 were diagnosed. 16,000 of those didn't receive any treatment at all because of long waiting lists.

WHO's Global Tuberculosis Report shows that much progress is being made in the fight against TB – the number of people who were ill with the disease fell from 8.7 million in 2011 to 8.6 million last year. Similarly there was a fall in the number of deaths – down from 1.4 million in 2011 to 1.3 million last year.

Nicki Chadwick, UN Radio, Geneva.

Duration: 1’46″

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