Last week, the EU Parliament overwhelmingly voted to include tuberculosis (TB) in the Europe 2020 Strategy, the EU’s strategy for growth for the coming decade. The resolution was supported by 578 MEPs with only 9 voting against and 52 abstentions. The resolution highlights the role European research can play in developing countries, where TB’s toll is the highest.
The resolution stipulates that research done by the Tuberculosis Vaccine Initiative (TBVI) should be included in the Europe 2020 Strategy. TBVI is an independent, non-profit European organisation that stimulates and coordinates the development of new, globally accessible and affordable vaccines against TB. Their focus on affordable vaccines is particularly important as the burden of TB is carried by developing countries. The only TB vaccine currently available protects children from some forms of TB and has limited efficacy in adults.
The resolution outlines how the EU can play a central role in reaching the UN Millennium Development Goal to ‘halt and begin to reverse’ TB by 2015. This is not a disease of the past, but a present-day global epidemic that kills nearly 2 million people annually. In addition, TB continues to be the largest killer of people living with HIV, with nearly one in four deaths due to TB.
More worrying for Europe are drug resistant forms of TB that are incredibly difficult and sometimes impossible to treat. Drug resistant TB strains have been reported in all G8 countries and TB treatment costs the EU €2 billion every year. It is therefore highly important that the EU continue to priorities TB as a global threat to public health.