Global efforts to control rising levels of tuberculosis are not working and more needs to be done to reduce infections from the deadly airborne disease, public health experts said on Tuesday.
The World Health Organization (WHO) introduced a strategy in 1993 aimed at halving deaths over the next decade from the contagious illness that kills about 2 million people each year.
But researchers at Harvard University in the United States said a decade after the DOTS (Directly Observed Treatment, Short-course) plan was introduced, the global burden of TB continues to rise.
“Despite almost 10 years of DOTS, much of the world remains no closer to achieving control of TB,” Dr Tim Brewer and Dr Jody Heymann said in a report in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health.
“Improving TB control worldwide requires approaches that go beyond the current WHO program.”
Current plan has only modest impact
DOTS is a multi-level approach that involves patient treatment and surveillance. DOTS Plus was introduced later to deal with multiple drug resistant strains of TB.
Brewer and Heymann, who used computer models and recent epidemiological data on the disease, concluded that the current strategy is likely to have only a modest impact in controlling the illness.
They added that prevention coupled with treatment would be a more effective approach.
Rises in cases of TB are particularly bad in countries and regions with high rates of HIV/AIDS, such as sub-Saharan Africa and parts of eastern Europe. But the researchers said rather than looking at new approaches to tackle it, the WHO and others want to expand DOTS.
HIV weakens the immune system and makes sufferers more vulnerable to TB. It accounts for about 13 percent of AIDS deaths worldwide, according to WHO figures.
“To substantially reduce TB worldwide, we will have to do much more than connect the DOTS,” the researchers added.