Article written

  • on 24.06.2015
  • at 09:55 AM
  • by Kevin Hind

Africa Analysis: More TB funding and data needed 0

TB remains an underfunded and under-researched health problem in many parts of Africa, writes Linda Nordling.   In more than 30 years since its discovery, HIV has become one of the biggest targets of global health funding. By contrast, tuberculosis (TB) is an ancient disease caused by a bacterium discovered in the 19th century.

Until recently, doctors thought they had TB under control—at least in the developed world. But HIV, which attacks the immune system, has combined with TB in terrible ways. In many parts of the world, new drug-resistant TB strains are a growing threat.

In South Africa, where co-infection of TB and HIV is common, researchers have found that the diseases seem to make each other worse—HIV progresses quicker, while TB is harder to cure. However, researchers still don’t know exactly why.

Despite the interconnectedness between HIV and TB, investment in research and treatment of the latter has not caught up with that of HIV. As a result, TB researchers often call themselves the ‘poor cousins’ of their HIV counterparts.

New data published last month show that TB remains an underfunded and under-researched disease in most of Africa. [1] And that in places such as Nigeria, where its spread is growing while treatment and research activity remains low, risk becoming tomorrow’s TB hotbeds if things don’t change.

HIV’s poor cousin

In 2013, the global estimated spend on HIV and AIDS reached its highest-ever level of US$19.1 billion [2].  By contrast, research and development spend on TB that year was just over US$680 million.[3]

In African countries other than South Africa, the fight against TB is particularly under-resourced. A study published by scientists from Europe and Zambia in March this year found that patients who died in a hospital in Lusaka, Zambia, often were diagnosed with TB only after death, illustrating the gap in that country’s healthcare system. [4]

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by Linda Nordling

Photo Credit: AsokoNews

See footnotes in the original article 

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Direttore Responsabile Giuseppe Frangi