PARIS 2008: Ministerial meeting on MDR-TB & XDR-TB response

Photo by Mario CarvajalPlans for a high-level ministerial meeting on responses to multi-drug resistant TB (MDR-TB) and extensively drug resistant TB (XDR-TB) were announced during a pre-conference meeting of the 39th World Conference on Lung Health.

The meeting will be held in Beijing from 1 to 3 April 2009 and is being organized by WHO, the Ministry of Health of the People's Republic of China and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

This meeting will bring together health ministers and other stakeholders from 27 high MDR-TB burdened countries, including justice and science ministry delegations and representatives from international agencies, civil society, research communities and the corporate sector.

The 27 countries represented will be Armenia, Azerbaijan, Bangladesh, Belarus, Bulgaria, China, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Estonia, Ethiopia, Georgia, India, Indonesia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Latvia, Lithuania, the Republic of Moldova, Myanmar, Nigeria, the Philippines, the Russian Federation, Pakistan, South Africa, Tajikistan, Ukraine, Uzbekistan and Viet Nam.

The highest levels of MDR-TB ever recorded were reported by WHO in its 'Anti-tuberculosis Drug Resistance in the World' report in February this year with nearly half a million new MDR-TB cases emerging worldwide.

Fewer than 3% of cases are treated according to WHO recommended guidelines and cases of XDR-TB—which has a higher mortality rate and is more difficult and expensive to treat—are on the rise.

The threat of MDR-TB and XDR-TB can be halted but few of the 27 high MDR-TB burdened countries have response plans in place. Many of these countries are not even properly equipped to diagnose drug-resistant TB.

Without the right actions in place, including ensuring that basic TB controls are carried out properly, governments will face an uncontrollable and an untreatable TB epidemic.

The aims of the WHO ministerial meeting on MDR-TB and XDR-TB include:

- Strengthening political commitment and boosting engagement among affected countries and the global community.
- Using the months leading up to April 2009 to support countries to develop costed MDR-TB components of TB control within health sector plans.
- Working towards solutions in areas such as:

    * anti-TB drug quality, supply and rational use;
    * laboratory capacity and fast adoption of new and rapid diagnostic tools;
    * involvement of the private sector in MDR-TB prevention and control;
    * prevention of transmission of TB in healthcare facilities (infection control), congregate settings, prisons and communities;
    * promotion of patient and community rights and responsibilites (The Patients' Charter for Tuberculosis care);
    * research and development of new drugs and diagnostics.

Bobby Ramakant-CNS