WHO/Europe: New expert group on DR-TB to support more and better national research for treatment of resistant forms of TB

WHO has facilitated the creation of a new expert group on drug-resistant tuberculosis (DR-TB) to support Member States in improving their research on treatment. The areas of focus of the group, part of the WHO European Tuberculosis Research Initiative (ERI-TB), were agreed at a planning meeting in Vienna, Austria, on 22 February 2019.

DR-TB – a significant threat for public health in the Region

Nine of the top 30 countries with the highest burden of multidrug-resistant tuberculosis (MDR-TB) in the world are located in the WHO European Region, where about 1 in 5 new tuberculosis (TB) patients and 1 in 2 previously-treated TB patients have MDR-TB. MDR-TB is resistant to 2 of the most potent anti-TB drugs. Its treatment is not only more expensive, but also takes much longer. Today, only half of MDR-TB patients are treated successfully; the other half either do not survive or continue  transmitting the disease. Extensively drug-resistant TB (XDR-TB) is resistant to the main first- and second-line drugs, making curative treatment particularly challenging.

Research – a global and Regional priority

At the global level, the recent United Nations General Assembly high-level Meeting on TB recognized research and DR-TB as top priorities in its ambitious and powerful political declaration to accelerate progress towards End TB global targets.

Research on new vaccines, diagnostics, medicines and treatment regimens is also a Regional priority as it plays a key role in achieving the targets set in the Tuberculosis action plan for the WHO European Region 2016-2020. In particular, research for shorter and more effective treatment regimens for DR-TB is critical to stop the epidemic in the Region.

Workplan for new expert group

During the event in Vienna, the expert group, WHO experts and partner organizations agreed on the next activities for the expert group.

These include:

  • providing guidance to Member States on performing operational research on DR-TB treatment when implementing the 2018 WHO guidelines on DR-TB management;
  • providing guidance to Member States on how to address country-specific DR-TB research priorities; and
  • developing a template roadmap for country-level capacity-building in TB research.

About ERI-TB

ERI-TB was established by WHO Regional Office for Europe in late 2016 to advance TB-related research in the Region. The DR-TB research group was created in recognition of the growing problem caused by antimicrobial resistance, a major obstacle for the treatment and elimination of TB. The group is composed of experts and stakeholders in the field of DR-TB, including clinicians, academics, civil society organizations and patient representatives.

UN General Assembly High Level Meeting on the fight against tuberculosis

Tuberculosis action plan for the WHO European Region 2016–2020


Multidrug- and extensively drug-resistant TB (M/XDR-TB)

Introduction of the new guidelines on treatment of drug-resistant tuberculosis, and the face-to-face meeting of the Green Light Committee for the WHO European Region (rGLC/Europe)
19–21 February 2019, Vienna, Austria

Antimicrobial resistance

Source: WHO/Europe

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By World Health Organization

Published: March 20, 2019, 2:47 p.m.

Last updated: March 20, 2019, 4:15 p.m.

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