Over two million people will contract a form of tuberculosis by 2015 that is difficult to treat, the World Health Organization said Wednesday.
Hundreds of thousands worldwide will die from multi-drug-resistant strains of tuberculosis during that period unless greater efforts are made to properly diagnose all patients and provide them with correct medication, said Mario Raviglione, the director of WHO's Stop TB department
The warning came as an alliance of international health groups laid out their multi-billion-dollar plan to contain the spread of tuberculosis, a bacterial disease that usually affects the lungs.
"Overall progress is being made, but the response is far from sufficient given the MDR-TB threat that the world is facing," Raviglione said. "The commitments by some countries are too slow off the mark, or simply stalled."
Some countries in eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union are successfully reducing infection rates with aggressive detection and treatment programs, Raviglione said. But elsewhere the lack of proper screening for MDR-TB means many sufferers are going undiagnosed, let alone properly treated, increasing the risk that they will spread the disease to others.
Giving patients with multi-drug-resistant TB the wrong medication risks creating an even more dangerous form of tuberculosis called extensive drug-resistant TB. WHO estimates that some 25,000 people are contracting XDR-TB each year, requiring more expensive and toxic drugs with less chance of survival.