The Berlin TB Symposium
By Dr Timo Ulrichs, Head of the TB section, Koch-Metchnikov-Forum
The WHO-Euro region ranges from Portugal to the East Asian parts of Russia, including Central Asia and the Southern Caucasus. Because of the increasing numbers of tuberculosis and rates of multidrug resistance (MDR TB), tuberculosis was declared a regional emergency in 2004.
According to the WHO Global TB Report published in March 2008, 49 patients get tuberculosis and seven die – every hour!
In order to discuss possible ways for more efficient TB control, WHO-Euro and the German Federal Ministry of Health invited the health ministers from all 53 member states of the WHO-Euro region to a Ministerial Forum in Berlin, in October 2007. There, the health ministers adopted the Berlin Declaration on Tuberculosis, which names the current problems in TB control and asks all member states for immediate action.
As a follow-up to the Ministerial Forum, the Koch-Metchnikov-Forum (KMF), together with other TB control expert centres, namely the Robert Koch Institute (RKI), the German Central Committee (DZK) against Tuberculosis and the KNCV Tuberculosis Foundation, organised a scientific symposium in Berlin with the focus on the latest results in research on new diagnostics and treatment strategies, as well as novel vaccine development and prevention strategies for efficient tuberculosis control.
Speakers from the EU, US and Eastern Europe, including Russia, highlighted current R&D problems and practical TB control. WHO-Euro presented the most recent data on the spread of MDR TB throughout the WHO-Euro region (harbouring 12 out of 14 regions worldwide with high burden of MDR TB). Contributions also pointed to new developments in basic TB research, especially various novel vaccine candidates already in early clinical testing phases and based on an EU-funded research network (TB-VAC). The Aeras TB Foundation, funded by the Gates Foundation and supporting TB vaccine research, suggested ways of collaboration. Presentations were also given by other nongovernmental organisations, e.g. TB Alliance (development of new TB drugs) and FIND Diagnostics (development of new diagnostic techniques).
Held on World Tuberculosis Day 2008, the symposium drew 150 participants, including many from East European partner countries of the KMF, including the Russian Federation and Moldova.
The Berlin Declaration on Tuberculosis: http://www.euro.who.int/Document/E90833.pdf
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