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Top 4 Reasons the WHO Got it Wrong on TB

sick girl sitting on ground


[Editor’s Note: Today is World TB Day. Please share with friends and colleagues through social media how critical it is that we stop TB worldwide. Follow the day’s happenings on Facebook or Twitter.]

Two weeks before today’s World TB Day, the World Health Organization announced its first-ever list of the most dangerous antibiotic-resistant superbugs on the planet that pose the greatest threat to human health. Yet, somehow, tuberculosis was left off the list. Here are the top four reasons that TB should hold the number one spot:


  1. It’s the number one infectious disease killer on the planet -- surpassing HIV/AIDS. Killing roughly two million people a year, TB will have killed someone by the time you finish reading this article.
  2. It’s inexpensive and relatively easy to cure TB! Yet, we can’t manage to stamp it out. Meanwhile, when people start treatment and then stop because they have to move, or don’t understand the importance of finishing treatment, they can develop forms of TB that are resistant to the first line antibiotics that we have relied on for decades.
  3. Drug-resistant TB is on the rise -- and it’s deadly. The treatment regimen is brutal, the drugs result in significant side effects, and we desperately need new lines of defense to battle these antibiotic-resistant strains.
  4. It’s not given a high enough priority in the public health world, and this latest swipe at TB efforts undermines the years of work that TB advocacy groups have done to elevate the cause.


TB should already be wiped off the planet, but we lack the political will and funding focus to deliver it a death blow. Instead, public health officials continue to make major missteps like leaving it off of the WHO list of antibiotic-resistant bacteria, when it should be center stage. Let’s make this World TB Day the very last where we have to argue whether TB should get attention and funding. We urge the WHO to include drug-resistant TB on their list, because new lines of defense are urgently needed to head off this surge of drug-resistant TB.


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