World Health Organization offers new guidelines as part of its global strategy to end tuberculosis

Oct. 31, 2014

The World Health Organization (WHO) has presented new guidelines as part of its Post-2015 Global Tuberculosis Strategy (End TB). This document outlines a 20-year blueprint and now addresses the management of latent tuberculosis. The new guidelines promote for the first time the screening of specific vulnerable populations for latent TB infection and treating the infection to prevent progression to active TB disease, which currently kills 1.5 million people a year. The guidelines recommend programmatic intervention for more than 100 countries with an incidence below 100 cases per 100,000.

An estimated nine million people worldwide had active TB disease in 2013 and 1.5 million died of the disease, according to WHO. While treatment efforts in the past two decades have reduced the death toll from the ongoing TB epidemic, the disease is still taking lives in all regions of the world. WHO is putting forward a broad strategy to end the global epidemic by 2035, reduce TB deaths by 95%, cut active cases by 90%, and eliminate the catastrophic economic burdens in TB-affected regions. The strategy outlines actions to strengthen TB treatment and prevention; mobilize resources; accelerate development of new drugs, vaccines and diagnostics; and reform social support.

For the first time, the WHO calls on health authorities to confront the problem of latent TB infection (LTBI)—a global pool of two billion people infected with Mycobacterium tuberculosis, who stand up to a 10% chance of developing active, contagious TB disease. WHO recommends screening the most at-risk populations, such as HIV-positive patients, young children, people in contact with active TB patients, and immunocompromised patients, and providing preventive treatment to those considered at risk of active TB development. The strategy also calls for more study of preventive treatment in a range of high-risk groups. View a PDF from the WHO about its “END TB Strategy.”

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