Tuberculosis (TB) is humanity’s greatest infectious killer. Seventy years since the discovery of antibiotics, and twenty four years after being declared a global health emergency, TB remains the world’s deadliest communicable disease. Every year over 10 million people fall ill with the disease and 1.8 million die from it. Moreover, TB has become one of the world’s leading drug-resistant killers. It is the only major drug-resistant infection which is transmitted through the air.
Global initiatives have targeted TB but achieved only relatively limited reductions in the number of cases and deaths. The Millennium Development Goal target on TB was achieved, but 33 million people have died from the disease since 2000. Sustainable Development Goal 3.3 targets the end of TB by 2030, but at current rates of progress it will still be a threat 150 years from now. The Global Fund to Fight HIV/AIDS, TB and Malaria has been fully replenished, but less than a fifth of its funds will target TB and much of the burden rests in countries that the Global Fund does not support.
Starting with the G20 Leaders’ Summit in Hamburg just two weeks after this event, TB will receive unprecedented attention from political leaders and decision-makers, through the Global Ministerial Conference in Moscow, Russia, in November 2017, and a United Nations High Level Meeting on TB in 2018. Between the two will fall the Argentinian Presidency of the G20 where further progress is expected on the antimicrobial resistance (AMR) agenda.
These events will do much to determine the future of the fight against TB. If political leaders agree the necessary plans and resources, the world could dramatically accelerate progress against the disease. If outcomes are vague or enjoy limited support, the response could stagnate. It is a ‘make or break’ period in the fight against the world’s deadliest infectious disease.