The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Opinion We need to put more money toward tuberculosis research

A scientist manipulates Koch's bacillus, responsible for tuberculosis, at a laboratory  in Marseille in March.
A scientist manipulates Koch's bacillus, responsible for tuberculosis, at a laboratory in Marseille in March. (ANNE-CHRISTINE POUJOULAT/AFP/Getty Images)

Regarding Wednesday’s editorial “A killer disease can be cured”:

As the World Health Organization has pointed out, drug-resistant tuberculosis infections are on the rise. And yet, funding for TB research and development of the tools we need, including new drugs, diagnostics and vaccines, is woefully inadequate, with the WHO citing an annual funding shortfall of $1.3 billion.

Current TB treatment requires about six months of daily therapy for the easiest-to-treat infections, those without any drug resistance, and up to two years or more with drug-resistant strains. Success rates for TB treatment are actually declining slightly, from 86 percent in 2013 to 82 percent in 2016. For the most drug-resistant infections, the chance of survival is about 1 in 3 even with treatment. This lack of significant progress against an ancient and curable disease is alarming.  

TB treatments, especially against drug-resistant strains, must be simpler, shorter, more effective, safer and affordable. This goal is readily achievable so TB therapy can play its role in the elimination of the disease. However, this can be done only with a substantially greater degree of funding.  

Mel Spigelman, New York

The writer, a physician, is president and chief executive of TB Alliance.

The headline of The Post’s Wednesday editorial said it all: “A killer disease can be cured.” But it’s hard to be cured of a disease if you’re never even treated. Last year, almost 4 million people with TB were left to fend for themselves outside the public health system.

Stigma, poverty and discrimination mean it is the most vulnerable groups who are most likely to be left out. And the disease itself pushes people only further to the margins, creating a vicious cycle.

Both the House and Senate have called for an increase in global TB funding. When they pick up budget negotiations again in December, they should go with the higher House number, which would boost next year’s TB budget by $41 million.

Tuberculosis is preventable, treatable and curable. The world may be full of intractable problems, but this doesn’t need to be one of them.

Colin Smith, Washington

The writer works for, an anti-poverty organization focused on tuberculosis.