China ‘has halved its TB problem,’ survey data suggests

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