Global efforts to rein in tuberculosis helped cut the death toll to 1.3 million last year, but drug-resistant forms of the disease are sparking huge concern, the WHO said Wednesday.
The TB toll is the world’s second-highest for an infectious disease, after HIV/AIDS.
In its annual report on the fight against the killer disease, the World Health Organization said the number who died in 2012 was 100,000 fewer than the previous year.
The number of people who caught TB in 2012 was estimated at 8.6 million, which was also 100,000 down on 2011 and almost half the level in 1990.
Only two-thirds of cases were diagnosed, however.
“Quality TB care for millions worldwide has driven down TB deaths,” Mario Raviglione, head of the WHO’s TB program, said in a statement.
“But far too many people are still missing out on such care and are suffering as a result. They are not diagnosed, or not treated, or information on the quality of care they receive is unknown,” he added.
According to the WHO, close to one-third of TB cases last year were in Southeast Asia, just over a quarter in Africa and around one-fifth on the Western Pacific region.
India alone accounted for 26 percent of cases, and China, 12 percent.
Since the WHO launched a major anti-TB drive in 1995, a total of 56 million people have been treated and 22 million lives saved, the agency said.
A leading concern for health experts now is multidrug-resistant TB, or MDR-TB, which emerged due to poor quality treatment of the regular strain.
MDR-TB is able to ward off isoniazid and rifampicin, the drugs used to treat regular TB. No TB vaccine is expected to hit the market before 2025, the WHO said.
The WHO estimates that 450,000 people fell ill with MDR-TB in 2012 alone, with the highest burden in China, India and Russia.
Three out of four of those MDR-TB cases are thought to have gone undiagnosed, however, the bulk of them in developing countries. And those who catch it often miss out on treatment or have to wait too long for care.
“The unmet demand for a full-scale and quality response to multidrug-resistant tuberculosis is a real public health crisis,” said Raviglione.
MDR-TB claimed 170,000 lives last year, the WHO said.
The agency also underlined that funding for its anti-TB campaign was off-target.
It said it needed to bridge a $2 billion (1.4 billion euros) annual gap in order to meet its overall requirement of up to eight billion dollars a year to fight the disease in low and middle-income countries.