UNITED NATIONS, Aug. 14 (Xinhua) -- Ahead of a critical meeting on tuberculosis (TB) next month, an international scientific organization fighting the disease has expressed concern at the slow progress in coming up with new drugs, blaming it on lack of commitment.
In the past 50 years, only two medications were developed to treat TB, plus a 15-percent-effective vaccine for children under the age of 5, Paula Fujiwara, scientific director of the International Union Against Lung Disease and Tuberculosis, said Tuesday.
She attributed the slow research and development to the "sneaky" TB bacteria and lack of commitment, financially and politically.
The TB community wants to see an annual sum of 13 billion U.S. dollars to fund the global response, she said. Of this, 1.3 billion dollars, almost double the current amount, should be invested in research and development.
"TB is an economic issue, a development issue, a security issue, and we need leadership from heads of state," she said.
On Sept. 26 the United Nations General Assembly will convene its first high-level meeting on the fight against TB. Ending the TB epidemic by 2030 is one of the UN Sustainable Development Goals.
Fujiwara proposed five priorities in battling TB: reaching everyone in need of care, ensuring people's right to know their status, developing new tools to end the disease, investing necessary funds, and establishing an independent body to monitor how the commitments are progressing.
The commitments will be announced at the Sept. 26 meeting.
The first priority, she added, entails treating 40 million people by 2022. "Within this 40 million, we need to reach at least 3.5 million children and 1.5 million people with drug-resistant TB."
Over 1 million children aged under 15 contract TB every year and nearly one in four affected children die. Moreover, the disease is becoming increasingly resistant to antibiotics. Of all the deaths from drug-resistant bacteria, viruses and fungi, TB accounts for one-third.
Stressing the importance of making TB patients aware of their status and keeping them informed, Fujiwara said of an estimated 10.4 million people with TB in 2016, only about 6.1 million were reported to the World Health Organization.
TB kills more people around the world than any other infectious disease. In 2016, 1.7 million patients died, according to official figures.
The top five countries with the worst TB epidemic are India, which accounts for approximately a quarter of the cases and a quarter of global deaths, Indonesia, China, the Philippines and Pakistan.