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Improved TB care 'crucial' across Europe

Numbers of people falling ill with tuberculosis (TB) have sharply declined over the past ten years, but multi-drug resistant variants of the infection continue to claim lives, research has shown. 

The World Health Organization (WHO) found that across Europe, an estimated 353,000 patients fell ill with TB in 2012, a 5%  drop each year since 2002. 

However, the success rate of treatment for multi-drug resistant TB has stayed the same over the same period. One in three (34%) of patients complete treatment successfully. More than half die, are not treated successfully or are lost to follow-up. And only a quarter of people were successfully treated. 

WHO is aiming to eliminate TB by 2050, but claims this depends on the development of new drugs together with diagnostics and vaccines. 

Zsuzsanna Jakab, WHO regional director for Europe said: "We must reach all patients, not only half of them and 'half the way'. For the first time in 40 years, new TB drugs have become available but their scope is limited to specific groups of patients. 

"Other drugs are currently under clinical trial. A key objective for new treatments should be to reduce the duration from two years to two weeks. We need to put patients at the centre of care in the spirit of Health 2020." 

The director of European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control, Marc Sprenger, said: "If we are not able to diagnose and treat patients with MDR TB early and successfully, this not only puts patients' lives at risk but also paves the way for XDR TB.

"This is why it is essential to enable healthcare workers across Europe to fully support all MDR TB patients during the full course of treatment and make sure they finish it successfully."

The study which found the updated figures is available to view on the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control website.  

TB is an infection which mostly affects the lungs, but can affect any part of the body, including the bones and nervous system.