China has more than halved its tuberculosis (TB) prevalence, with rates falling from 170 to 59 per 100,000 population, figures suggest.
The Lancet report says the success is due to a huge expansion of a community-based disease control programme. The World Health Organization says other countries could use a similar approach.
China is a major contributor to the global TB pandemic, accounting for more than one-tenth of cases worldwide. The Lancet report reveals what progress China has made on reducing this burden, based on a 20-year-long analysis of national survey data.
Between 1990 and 2000, levels of TB were reduced in provinces where the WHO-recommended directly observed treatment, short-course (DOTS) programme – rapid detection and cure of infectious tuberculosis patients living in the community – was adopted.
By 2010, TB prevalence in China fell by 57%, tripling the reduction of the previous decade.
The increase of known TB cases treated using DOTS rose from 15% in 2000 to 66% in 2010.
Lead researcher Dr Yu Wang, from the Chinese Centre for Disease Control and Prevention in Beijing, said: “One of the key global TB targets set by the Stop TB Partnership aims to reduce tuberculosis prevalence by 50% between 1990 and 2015.
“This study in China is the first to show the feasibility of achieving such a target, and China achieved this five years earlier than the target date.”
The 2014 World Health Assembly will look at eliminating TB and setting ambitious new targets which could include a 50% reduction in tuberculosis prevalence between 2015 and 2025.
Giovanni Battista Migliori from WHO said: “The results from China show the feasibility of achieving such a target by aggressively scaling up the basic programmatic elements of tuberculosis control both within and outside the public sector.”
He said other countries could learn from China’s example.
TB remains a big issue in many countries, including India, Russia and many African nations. Better diagnostic tools and treatments are still needed.
Aaron Oxley of Stop TB UK said: “China has shown what is possible to achieve when attention and resources are brought to the fight against TB. But nearly 4,000 people still die from TB every day, and 3 million cases go undiagnosed each year. We still have a long way to go.”
Source: BBC news