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Sunday, 8 December, 2002, 00:37 GMT
Tackling TB 'needs global effort'
TB test
A patient being tested for TB
Tuberculosis in the UK can only be tackled as part of a global campaign, an expert has warned.

The message comes amid indications that parts of the UK have higher rates of TB than parts of India and Africa.

A total of 170 people had to be tested in Glasgow this week after two men died after contracting the disease at a city pub.

Dr Mario Raviglione of the Stop TB Partnership, a coalition of organisations including the World Health Organization and the UK's TB Alert, said countries could not reduce TB cases by simply "building a fence" around their borders.


TB doesn't respect borders

Dr Mario Raviglione
He said an increase in migration and travel meant TB could be easily spread from country to country.

TB is caused by a bacterium which usually affects the chest and can be caught from someone else's cough.

Dr Raviglione said action was needed to tackle TB in countries where it was a major problem, which would also benefit industrialised countries.

"There's no doubt that TB is a global problem. It doesn't respect borders," he told BBC News Online.

He said the Stop TB Partnership was a good example of organisations across the world collaborating to address a major health problem.

"It's a co-ordinated effort to ensure that the needs of countries are actually met," he said.

Malnutrition

Stop TB is particularly concerned at the spread of the disease among HIV-positive people, which is a problem in Africa, and drug-resistant TB.

In developed countries, it is the poorest members of society who are most likely to develop TB, such as the homeless and immigrants.

Dr Raviglione said there were a number of reasons why the poorest people in society were most at risk.

"TB grows and thrives in a situation where large numbers of people share accommodation. If a person is coughing, it is certain others will be affected."

He said the stress of arriving from another country and malnutrition were also risk factors.

Despite the success of the Stop TB Partnership, Dr Raviglione estimated an extra $300m would be needed each year if the target of detecting 70% of infected people, and curing 85% of cases was to be met by the 2005 deadline.

Training

He said countries needed to have adequate systems in place to detect and treat TB.

"You have to have a system that gives the proper diagnosis of cases.

"That starts with training up the most peripheral health workers in relation to the symptoms of TB.

"Then there must be a laboratory where you can send the sputum for testing.

"And you have to have the patient back and tell them they have TB, give them the drugs they need, and care for them for the next six months."

See also:

06 Dec 02 | Scotland
06 Dec 02 | Health
04 Dec 02 | Health
22 Oct 02 | Health
18 Feb 02 | Asia-Pacific
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