Drug-resistant TB could kill 75 million people by 2050

By 2050 drug-resistant tuberculosis could kill about 75 million people, according to experts.

The global economy could also end up footing a cumulative bill of $16.7 trillion (£15 trillion) - the equivalent of the EU's annual output. A UK parliamentary group focused on TB had made the comments.

The comments come after the World Health Organisation warned last year that multidrug-resistant TB was at 'crisis levels', with about 480,000 new cases in 2013.

Multi-drug resistant TB, a man-made problem is caused by regular TB patients who get the wrong medicines or doses, or who fail to complete their treatment, which is highly toxic and can take up two years.

According to the APPG TB, the fight against the disease was also hampered by a lack of an effective vaccine.

The only TB vaccine, BCG, protected some children from severe forms of TB - including one that affected the brain, but was not reliable in preventing TB in the lung, the most common form of the disease.

According to the WHO, TB which spreads through the coughs and sneezes of infected persons, killed 1.5 million people worldwide in 2013.

The organisation said yesterday that if not tackled effectively, drug-resistant TB superbugs threatened to shrink the world economy by 0.63 per cent annually.

"The rising global burden of multidrug-resistant TB and other drug-resistant infections will come at a human and economic cost which the global community simply cannot afford to ignore", economist Jim O'Neill said in a statement.

A former investment chief at Goldman Sachs, O'Neill was appointed last year by UK prime minister David Cameron to head a review into antimicrobial resistance.

The bacteria causing TB could develop resistance to drugs used to cure the disease and the multidrug-resistant form of the disease is known to not respond to at least isoniazid and rifampicin, the two most powerful anti-TB drugs, according to the World Health Organisation (WHO).

The cost projections of the group consider a scenario in which an additional 40 per cent of all TB cases were resistant to first-line drugs, leading to a doubling of the infection rate.

The group had called on governments to establish a research and development fund, target investments into basic research and increase support for bilateral TB programmes.

According to Nick Herbert, co-chairman of the APPT TB, better tools were needed to deal with the menace, but since TB primarily affected the poorest and most vulnerable in society, there was little commercial incentive to develop new drugs.