The World Health Organization (WHO), the Stop TB Partnership, UNITAID, and the Foundation for Innovative New Diagnostics announced partnership in two new initiatives to help curb the global tuberculosis (TB) epidemic.

The new initiatives would allow patients in low-resource countries suffering from multidrug-resistant TB (MDR-TB) to receive diagnosis more quickly and also receive appropriate treatment.

“I am delighted that this initiative will improve both the technology needed to diagnose TB quickly, and increase the availability of drugs to treat highly resistant TB,” says British Prime Minister Gordon Brown, who helped launch the Stop TB partnership in 2006.

Currently it is estimated that only 2% of MDR-TB patients worldwide are receiving proper diagnosis and treatment. This is mostly due to inadequate laboratory services. The two new initiatives are expected to increase that percentage sevenfold over the next 4 years.

Currently, tests take 2 to 3 months or more to confirm diagnosis. Patients must wait for the results before they can receive life-saving second line drugs. Additionally, patients can continue to spread the MDR-TB throughout this time. The first of the two initiatives will introduce a molecular method of diagnosis for MDR-TB, which takes less than 2 days to produce results. The Stop TB Partnership’s Global Drug Facility will provide the new method of testing.

The second initiative will address the proper medication of patients with MDR-TB. The Global Drug Facility will boost supplies of drugs needed to treat MDR-TB in 54 countries. This project is also expected to lower the cost of second-line anti-TB drugs up to 20% by 2010, which will also allow for expanded use of the appropriate treatment for the disease.