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China, which records nine lakh new cases of tuberculosis (TB) every year, continues to remain among the 30 countries most heavily plagued by the infectious disease, authorities have said. By the end of 2016, the TB incidence rate stood at 61 per one lakh people in China, down from 14 per cent since 2011, the latest statistics from the National Health and Family Planning Commission’s disease prevention and control bureau showed.
The commission is the nation’s top health authority. The bacterial infection was not evenly distributed across the country. Rural areas in the western regions recorded the highest TB prevalence, the commission said on Thursday on the eve of the World TB Day. The Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region reported the highest TB prevalence followed by the Tibet autonomous region and Guizhou province followed.
The commission has taken a number of steps in the past to alleviate TB burden from these regions, including increasing investment for health projects, improving training for local medical staff and encouraging local governments to issue favourable policies for TB patients, such as increasing medical insurance reimbursement for the disease, state-run China Daily quoted the commission as saying.
Health authorities will continue to support areas with higher reported cases of TB, it said. China also plans to intensify research in the prevention and control of TB in the next few years, the commission said.
A focus will be on research in preventive and curable vaccines for the disease, it said. Authorities will also encourage research into new therapies and drugs for TB, including chemotherapies and immunotherapies, it said.
On Thursday, China’s first lady Peng Liyuan visited a middle school in Tianjin to promote TB prevention and treatment awareness among students. Incidence of tuberculosis in China is expected to be reduced to below 58 for every one lakh people by 2020, according to a national plan on the control and prevention of TB released by the State Council in February.
According to the document, services for preventing and treating tuberculosis will be further improved by 2020 and those who have the disease would be given access to regular treatment. “China faces many challenges in the prevention and control of tuberculosis, in particular the big number of patients and the number of patients that have developed drug resistance,” said Wang Xiexiu, former president of the Chinese Anti-tuberculosis Association.
There are few new drugs for TB, and those commonly used have lost their effect in many patients due to drug resistance, she said. The WHO estimated that in 2015 China had 57,000 cases of multidrug resistant TB.