HomeWashington Letter2020 ▶ COVID-19 Threatens to Reverse TB Progress - WHO TB Report
COVID-19 Threatens to Reverse TB Progress - WHO TB Report

On Oct. 14, 2020, the World Health Organization (WHO) released its Global TB Surveillance Report, 2020. While the report notes slight progress on the number of TB deaths, from 1.5 million in 2018 to 1.4 million in 2019 and a 9 percent reduction in TB incidence between 2015 and 2019, the world is not on track to meet global prevention and treatment targets without increased action from governments, including funding for TB programs and research and development. The number of TB cases stayed steady at 10 million between 2018 and 2019.

According to the WHO, the TB response has been significantly adversely impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, with TB case notifications down substantially in high burden countries including India and Indonesia, which could lead to an increase in TB deaths globally. But since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, many countries have taken action to alleviate the impact on TB programs by strengthening infection control, expanding digital technologies, and supporting home-based treatment including all-oral regimens for drug resistant TB.

Concerning drug resistant TB, the report does point to some progress, with a 10 percent increase in notifications of multi-drug resistant (MDR) cases between 2018 and 2019. India, China, and Russia account for most of the world’s MDR-TB cases.

The WHO report notes some progress on TB preventive treatment, with the world on track to meet the target on TB preventive treatment for people living with HIV to be achieved ahead of schedule in 2020. However, progress towards targets for preventive treatment for household contacts of people with TB remains stalled.

The key finding is that the COVID-19 pandemic has set the TB response back significantly and urgent funding for TB programs and research and development is needed. In 2020, funding for TB treatment, care and prevention is at about half, or $6.5 billion of the $13 billion target set by countries at the 2018 UN High-Level meeting on TB.

Last Reviewed: October 2020