For World Tuberculosis Day today, the TB Alliance is shining the spotlight on a sometimes overlooked aspect of the global TB burden: pediatric TB.
Worldwide, TB has been on a steady decline–deaths have dropped 45% based on 1990 levels, meaning the world is on track to achieve the Millennium Development Goal of reversing incidence of TB by the end of 2015. But that decline is slow. In 2013, the last year for which there are data, 9 million people fell ill with TB and 1.5 million died. It remains the second deadliest infectious disease after AIDS–and HIV/TB co-infections result in about a quarter of all AIDS related deaths around the world.
Still, the international community has gotten quite good at developing treatments for TB. The drugs are relatively inexpensive; but they require a long treatment regimen, meaning a lot of people who go on treatment sometimes stop taking their drugs once their symptoms go away, but before the infection has been cured. This can result in the spread of drug resistant strains of TB which are far more complex and expensive to treat.
Another particularly difficult challenge is treating TB in children. Pediatric TB medicines are not widely available in the developing world. In 2013, an estimated 550 000 children became ill with TB and 80,000 HIV-negative children died of TB. When children fall ill, health workers have to improvise
This video, from the WHO, shows the challenges of treating kids with TB and offers a preview of a new global strategy to create appropriate treatment regimens for children, which includes a new partnership with the US Fund for UNICEF.