WHO and Tuberculosis

The World Health Organization (WHO) has just published in its bulletin an article about new research models and development needed in order to tackle tuberculosis and antimicrobial resistance (http://www.who.int/bulletin/volumes/95/5/17-194837.pdf?ua=1).

The authors identify some key problems, such as the fact that more people die from tuberculosis every year than from HIV/AIDS, despite the existence of drugs capable to kill Koch’s bacillus. They briefly comment on the lack of scientific development related to tuberculosis, and on the emergence of resistant pathogens. In the end, the authors explain a new proposal for research in this field, including more financial incentives, prizes and the pooling of intellectual property and data.

Nevertheless, we must to be aware of the points that are not even mentioned by WHO. They don’t acknowledge that tuberculosis is a disease intrinsically related to agglomerations, to a lack of hygiene and to social disparities. In other words, it is highly associated to poverty and to a lack of material conditions to survive and to reproduce one’s own existence. WHO is far from debating the causes of having tuberculosis, not questioning why it is a neglected disease (as well as malaria, leprosy, etc) or even querying the lack of investments for scientific development in this area.

There are structures sustaining this scenario, and they are directly responsible for the 1.400.000 people who died from tuberculosis in 2015. I don’t have any illusions with regards to the role of WHO in the context of global governance. Even though, as health professionals we must reflect that we need to challenge this framework if we are willing to deliver health for all in fact.