By 2015 more than two million people will contract a form of tuberculosis (TB) resistant to standard drugs and the fight against it must be stepped up, the World Health Organization said on Wednesday.
In a report launched on World TB Day, the United Nations health body along with a global fund that directs money to the disease, called on world leaders to pay more toward a goal of diagnosing and treating a million people with multidrug-resistant tuberculosis (MDR-TB) between 2011 and 2015.
"Commitments by some countries are too slow off the mark or simply stalled," said Rifat Atun, director of strategy, performance and evaluation at the Global Fund to fight AIDS, TB and Malaria, which directs government and private contributions to the three diseases.
If governments fail to commit more funds "the efforts of the last 10 years will be completely undermined," he said.
Tuberculosis spreads through the air. If it is not effectively treated, each person with active TB can infect on average 10 to 15 people a year.
A separate reported by the WHO's European office and the European Center for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) last week said that TB kills an estimated 1.7 million people each year and the worldwide number of new cases - around 9.4 million - is higher than at any other time in history.
MDR-TB is a form of TB that does not respond to the standard treatments, and leaving it untreated increases the risk of spread of drug resistant strains of TB. The WHO said it estimates there will be more than 2 million new cases of MDR-TB between 2011 and 2015.
According to latest data from the WHO, there were an estimated 440,000 new MDR-TB cases in 2008, with three countries - China, India and Russia - accounting for more than 50 percent of all cases globally.
Since 2009, the 23 countries most heavily affected by TB drug resistance have nearly doubled their budgets for MDR-TB, but more needs to be done, the report said.