Press releases

WHO calls for urgent action to prevent the spread of more deadly form of tuberculosis

Sixtieth session of the Regional Committee for the Western Pacific, 21–25 September 2009, Hong Kong (China)

Hong Kong (China) 24 September 2009—The World Health Organization (WHO) today called on Member States in the Western Pacific Region to urgently tackle the threat from multidrug-resistant tuberculosis (MDR-TB).

Dr Shin Young-soo, WHO Regional Director for the Western Pacific, said MDR-TB, which is resistant to the two most powerful first-line anti-TB drugs, severely undermines efforts to implement the Stop TB Strategy and reduce significantly the global burden of TB. Dr Shin was speaking at a meeting here of WHO's Regional Committee for the Western Pacific

Worldwide, there are more than nine million new TB cases and half a million new cases of MDR-TB each year—with the latter significantly more difficult and more costly to treat than drug-susceptible TB. In the Western Pacific Region, some 5000 new TB infections occur daily, and the situation is made worse by the added threat of multidrug-resistant TB.

The Regional Committee is meeting in Hong Kong (China) to review WHO's work in the Region, including how countries and areas are fairing in their TB control efforts.

Since the Regional Committee declared a TB crisis in the Western Pacific in 1999, WHO Member States have accelerated anti-TB activities, with the goal of cutting TB prevalence and mortality in half by 2010, based on 2000 levels. TB prevalence dropped from 260 per 100 000 population in 2000 to 197 per 100 000 in 2007, according to the latest data. During that same period, TB mortality decreased from 20 per 100 000 to 16 per 100 000 people. Despite the gains, however, the decline has been to slow to meet the 2010 goal.

A speedier decline in TB prevalence and mortality has been hampered by insufficient activities in addressing multidrug-resistant TB and collaborative activities for TB-HIV co-infection, limited access to newer and more sensitive tests for TB, inadequate infection control in health facilities as well as a drop in funding of technical assistance.

WHO urged Member States, especially those affected by MDR-TB, including extensively drug-resistant TB (XDR-TB)—which is resistant to the most powerful second-line anti-TB drugs—to ensure that all bottlenecks in MDR-TB and XDR-TB control and patient care are tackled. This will enable countries immediately to put into action the agreement made at a ministerial meeting in Beijing last April to scale up prevention and management of MDR-TB and XDR-TB.

Some US$ 1.2 billion is required this year for the diagnosis and treatment of MDR-TB and XDR-TB patients, worldwide. A further US$ 11 billion is needed for 2010–2015, which does not cover out-of-pocket costs to patients and their families.

For more information or interview request, please call:

Ms Marilu Lingad at Hong Kong mobile: (852) 6689 5763;
Philippine mobile: +63 908 8914532; e-mail:

Mr Peter Cordingley at Hong Kong mobile (852) 6349 2101:
Philippine mobile: +63 918 963 0224; email

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