ACTION supports call for TB to be added to WHO’s priority list of antibiotic-resistant bacteria

Washington, D.C. (Mar. 10) – ACTION has joined other leading health organizations calling for tuberculosis (TB) to be added to the World Health Organization’s (WHO) list of high priority drug-resistant bacteria. The call comes in the wake of WHO’s "first ever list of antibiotic-resistant pathogen, as part of the efforts to address the growing global resistance to antimicrobial medicine."

Marie Paule Kieny, WHO’s assistant director general for health systems and innovation, said the organization identified the list of 12 families of bacteria that are drug-resistant and pose serious threat to human health with the hope that it will serve as new tool to ensure research and development responds to urgent public health needs.

Tuberculosis, one of the oldest and most prevalent infectious diseases, is not included on the list.

However, WHO data shows TB kills more people than any other bacteria, and the global TB burden is increasingly characterized by drug-resistant (DR) forms. In 2015, an estimated 580,000 people were reported to have become sick from DR-TB. Lack of new drugs to treat the disease and the ineffectiveness of existing treatment, including lengthy regimen and adverse effect from dug toxicity, is commonly cited by advocates as reasons for TB’s longevity and increasing resistance to available drugs.

In an open letter, signed so far by 40 of the leading institutions working in TB and global health, as well as 261 individuals representing researchers, scientists, civil society and communities, clinicians, health workers, and heads of agencies from all around the world, members of the TB community respond swiftly to the omission with calls to name TB among the high priority list of drug resistant pathogens.

“TB’s exclusion sends the false and counterproductive message that drug-resistant TB is not a public health threat. As we are aware, TB is the world’s leading infectious disease killer and drug-resistant TB is responsible for one-third of AMR deaths. It also provides the wrong impression that funding for TB R&D has been secured, though we know that the TB R&D funding available represents barely 30 percent of the needs and has been declining for the least three years,” the letter said, in part.

Responding to the concerns, WHO Director General Dr. Margaret Chan said, "Addressing drug-resistant tuberculosis research is a top priority for WHO and for the world." She added that more than US$800 million per year is currently needed to fund research into new antibiotics to treat TB.

"It’s heartening to hear WHO affirm the need for investment in TB, and we hope words will be backed up by action, including modifying its list to include TB," said Mandy Slutsker, ACTION secretariat policy and advocacy manager.

ACTION is a partnership of 12 locally rooted organizations around the world that advocate together to build political will and increase investments for global health. Our partners:  Æquitas (India), CITAM (Zambia), Global Health Advocates France, Global Health Advocates India, Kenya AIDS NGOs Consortium, Princess of Africa Foundation (South Africa), RESULTS International Australia, RESULTS Canada, RESULTS Japan, RESULTS Educational Fund (US), RESULTS UK, and WACI Health (Kenya).


For more information, or to be connected with our global network of health advocates:

Grace Virtue
Senior Advisor – Communications
+1 (202) 637-9600 ext. 123