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World leaders have been asked to back a multi-billion dollar plan to prevent 14 million deaths from tuberculosis (TB) over the next ten years.

The Stop Tuberculosis Partnership, a coalition of more than 400 organisations, launched the plan at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, on 27 January.

It received an immediate boost with the announcement of US$600 million in additional funding from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

But this is just a fraction of the US$56 billion needed to implement the plan. It calls for global spending to treble over the next decade to increase access to tuberculosis control programmes and to accelerate research on new ways of fighting the disease.

"We are willing to triple our funding for tuberculosis, and we urge others to do the same," said Bill Gates. "If we have the chance to save 14 million lives, and a clear plan to make it happen, we have an obligation to act."

The Gates Foundation had already committed US$300 million to the plan. The extra money will be used largely to support research and development of new drugs, vaccines and diagnostic tools.

Based on current funding trends, the Stop Tuberculosis Partnership says about 40 per cent of the money needed will have to come from G8 nations and other donor countries, while the remainder should come from the governments of countries affected by TB.

Nigeria's president Olusegun Obasanjo said the plan was "fundamental for Africa" where 46 countries declared TB emergencies last year.

"We hope the African Union will endorse this plan, and call upon African governments to commit their share of the resources needed to implement it," he said.

The UK finance minister Gordon Brown added: "For far too long, world leaders have ignored the global tuberculosis epidemic, even as it causes millions of needless deaths each year. Today's plan demonstrates that the fight against tuberculosis is one we can win. I hope that the G8 will make fighting tuberculosis a top priority."

 

The Global Plan needs US$47 billion for improving TB treatment and control, and a further US$9 billion for research and development.

"I believe the priorities are correct," says Patrick Brennan, a professor of mycobacterial diseases at US-based Colorado State University.

"This is very encouraging news —  the plan puts a greater emphasis on optimising existing treatment strategies, which are effective if cumbersome, and also directs resources towards developing new drugs, vaccines and better diagnostics."

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