In 2021, an estimated 1.6 million people died of tuberculosis (TB), making it the world’s second deadliest infectious killer, right after COVID-19. The COVID-19 pandemic has further accelerated the public health burden of TB by disrupting TB prevention and treatment services in many countries. In addition, multidrug-resistant TB (MDR-TB) is challenging to diagnose and requires complex treatment regimens with less successful outcomes. New and better diagnostics, drugs and vaccines are urgently needed to end the TB pandemic. Funding for TB, however, has declined since 2020 and is far from the annually required USD 19.6 billion for TB diagnosis, treatment and prevention and the annually required USD 5 billion for research and development.
Symposium on TB research and policyTo reawaken the public awareness and spark global efforts to fight TB, Swiss TPH is organising a 2-day symposium: -The Tuberculosis Pandemic: A Call to Action - Science Application and Politics-. The symposium is taking place on 21-22 March 2023, just ahead of World TB Day on 24 March. Over 400 national and international experts, researchers and policy-makers have come together physically and virtually at Swiss TPH to present the latest scientific evidence around TB, address health systems challenges and drive policy change.
After the opening remarks from Lucica Ditiu, Executive Director of the Stop TB Partnership, Matteo Zignol, Director a.i. at the Global TB Programme of the World Health Organization (WHO), gave an update on the status of TB around the world. A unique insight into the topic was provided by Rhea Lobo, TB survivor and Board Member of the Stop TB Partnership.
Funds urgently needed to fight TBPeter Sands, Executive Director of the Global Fund, stated: -TB is the poor people’s pandemic and thus gets a tiny fraction of the resources that are devoted to diseases that appear more threatening to the rich, the elite in the world. We must challenge this inequity.- Sebastien Gagneux, Head of the Department of Medical Parasitology and Infection Biology at Swiss TPH, emphasised: -The joint global efforts and the enormous amounts of funding made available during the COVID-19 pandemic have demonstrated what can be achieved with adequate political will. In the case of TB, we know what needs to be done, but the funds are missing.-
The morning session also included several perspectives from parliamentarians from the UK, Germany and Switzerland as well as WHO and the International Union Against Tuberculosis and Lung Disease. Eva Herzog, Member of the Swiss Council of States and President of the Swiss TPH Board of Governors said: -Wealthy countries including Switzerland must meet the UN target of spending 0.7% of their gross national income on official development assistance to support the fight against diseases of poverty such as TB.-
In the following one and a half days, researchers and experts from Swiss TPH and around the world are elaborating on their work, ranging from basic research in the laboratory and clinical trials to interventions in healthcare systems.