WHO: During the COVID-19 pandemic, excess deaths from tuberculosis in Europe amounted to 7,000 people

ВОЗ: во время пандемии COVID-19 избыточная смертность от туберкулеза в Европе составила 7000 человек

This is what a tuberculosis bacterium that has already developed resistance to drugs looks like. WHO: During the COVID-19 pandemic, excess deaths from tuberculosis in Europe amounted to 7,000 people Healthcare

Three years into the COVID-19 pandemic, there have been almost seven thousand excess deaths from tuberculosis in the WHO European Region. The increase in mortality was a direct result of the pandemic and would not have occurred without disruptions to tuberculosis diagnostic and treatment programs.

This is stated in a new report on tuberculosis prepared by the WHO European Office and the European Center for Disease Prevention and Control. The report provides the latest evidence that countries in the region are now recovering from the pandemic but are still impacted by its impact on TB testing, diagnosis and treatment systems.

The report is published annually in anticipation of World Tuberculosis Day, which is celebrated on March 24. “Our latest report shows a heartbreaking and entirely preventable situation: people with TB were not adequately protected during the pandemic, resulting in breakdowns in TB services leading to the untimely deaths of seven thousand people,” said Dr. r Hans Kluge, WHO Regional Director for Europe.

The report also points to another unfolding tragedy that could have been prevented: the prevalence of drug-resistant tuberculosis continues to rise, he said. “We call on national authorities to strengthen testing programs for tuberculosis, establish rapid diagnosis of this disease and follow the latest WHO recommendations,” added Kluge.

Case Data

In 2022, 38 of the 53 WHO Member States in the European Region reported an increase in the number of reported tuberculosis cases. The total number of cases has reached over 170,000 (over 166,000 cases in 2021). These increased rates are likely an indication that TB services in many countries are now recovering from disruptions during the COVID-19 pandemic and that more people are being diagnosed and treated. This may also reflect the fact that the Region is beginning to catch up in the diagnosis of tuberculosis.

Drug-resistant tuberculosis

Worryingly, in the European Union (EU) and European Economic Area (EEA), on average, only 6 out of 10 courses of treatment for tuberculosis using first-line drugs were successful, that is, they resulted in a complete cure of patients from the infection. In the European Region as a whole, 7 out of 10 tuberculosis treatments were successful. These are the lowest rates in the last decade, highlighting potential problems with adherence and potential gaps in monitoring treatment outcomes. When properly planned and administered, treatment for tuberculosis should be successful in about 9 out of 10 patients infected with strains that respond to rifampicin and isoniazid.

Also concerning are signs that management of TB and HIV co-infection is suboptimal. Only 48 per cent of TB and HIV patients in the Region and 54 per cent in the EU and EEA who started treatment for TB in 2021 were completely cured of the disease.

To accelerate efforts to achieve tuberculosis elimination goals, WHO and ECDC recommend scaling up efforts to proactively find and treat previously missed tuberculosis cases, ensure access to preventive treatment, and full implementation of modern, short and exclusively oral treatment regimens.


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