Author(s): World Health Organization
Health experts have confirmed that the emergence of extensively drug-resistant tuberculosis (XDR-TB) poses a serious threat to public health, particularly when associated with HIV. At its first meeting, the World Health Organization (WHO) Global Task Force on XDR-TB also outlined a series of measures that countries must put in place to effectively combat XDR-TB. In addition, the Task Force will help mobilize teams that can respond to requests for technical assistance from countries, and be deployed at short notice to XDR-TB risk areas. These were among a series of outcomes issued by the Global Task Force meeting held on 9 and 10 October in Geneva. The meeting was urgently convened to review the latest available evidence on the impact of highly resistant tuberculosis, including when associated with HIV. Addressing the Task Force, Acting Director-General of WHO, Dr Anders Nordström, said the Organization was "absolutely committed" to supporting country efforts to fight TB in all forms. "It is critical that urgent steps are taken to address XDR-TB, especially in areas of high HIV prevalence," said Dr Nordström. "At the same time we should not lose sight of the need to make long-standing improvements to strengthen TB control, and build the necessary capacity in health services to respond to drug-resistant tuberculosis." Along with a call for countries to strengthen TB control - the key to preventing TB drug resistance - consensus was reached on an XDR-TB case definition (see below). In high HIV prevalence settings, there was also agreement that control of XDR-TB will not be possible without close coordination of TB and HIV programmes and interventions.