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Forum of International Respiratory Societies calls to advance prevention as critical strategy to end TB

Glenview, IL — In support of World TB Day, March 24, 2020, the Forum of International Respiratory Societies (FIRS), of which the American College of Chest Physicians is a founding member, urges governments to promote tuberculosis (TB) prevention as a critical component of TB elimination.

Globally, TB causes the most deaths of any other infectious disease, accounting for 1.5 million deaths in 2018 alone, according to the World Health Organization’s 2019 Global Tuberculosis Report. An additional 10 million people had active TB in 2018.

Despite significant progress against TB in recent years, many people struggle to receive the treatment and care necessary for reasons such as gaps in research and development, insufficient or underfunded health services, long and difficult treatments or because of stigma. An estimated 25% of the global population is living with Mycobacterium tuberculosis infection, the bacteria that cause the disease. People with latent M. tuberculosis infection have a 5% to 10% estimated likelihood of developing TB in their lifetime. However, TB prophylaxis reduces a person’s risk of developing active TB by 60% to 90%.

The Sustainable Development Goals set a target to end the global TB epidemic by 2030. At the U.N. High-Level Meeting on TB in 2018, world leaders committed to reaching at least 30 million people with preventive therapy by 2022. To do this, governments must ensure people have access to diagnostic services and appropriate care at the earliest stage after TB exposure and ensure populations at higher risk of developing TB, such as young children and people living with HIV infection, are proactively treated with preventive measures.

FIRS calls for urgent action to advance TB prevention through the rapid scale-up of access to prophylaxis for M. tuberculosis infection for those with the highest risk, including:

  • Four million children aged younger than five years
  • Twenty million other household contacts of people affected by TB
  • Six million people living with HIV/AIDS

Globally, we are falling short of targets,” says Dr. Grania Brigden, Director of the TB Department at the International Union Against Tuberculosis and Lung Disease (The Union), a FIRS founding member. “Only 27% of children who were eligible for preventive treatment in 2018 actually received it, and 49% of people newly enrolled in HIV treatment received TB preventive treatment.”

Dr. Brigden explains that this is an area that has been neglected for a long time. “By offering preventive therapies to those who need it, we are not only preventing them from experiencing the long treatments for TB but we are also preventing future lung damage and ensuring people and their families can remain TB free.”

Rapid scale-up of TB prophylaxis must be a priority element in national and global TB eradication strategies.

About the Forum of International Respiratory Societies (FIRS)

The Forum of International Respiratory Societies (FIRS) is an organization comprising the world's leading international respiratory societies working together to improve global lung health: American College of Chest Physicians (CHEST), American Thoracic Society (ATS), Asian Pacific Society of Respirology (APSR), Asociación Latino Americana De Tórax (ALAT), European Respiratory Society (ERS), International Union Against Tuberculosis and Lung Diseases (The Union), Pan African Thoracic Society (PATS), Global Initiative for Asthma (GINA) and the Global Initiative for Chronic Obstructive Lung Disease (GOLD).

The goal of FIRS is to unify and enhance efforts to improve lung health through the combined work of its more than 70,000 global members.

For more information about FIRS, please contact Lisa Roscoe at lisa.roscoe@firsnet.org.