Washington, D.C. – The Comprehensive Tuberculosis Elimination Act of 2008 (H.R. 1532), designed to end tuberculosis as a public health threat in the United States, will be sent to the president for his signature after passing the U.S. House Sept. 24 and the U.S. Senate today. The companion bill (S. 1551) was introduced by Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) and Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-Texas).
“Texas has some of the highest tuberculosis rates in the United States with over 1,500 cases and Houston had well over 100 confirmed cases of tuberculosis in 2007, which shows we need to remain vigilant in the fight against the disease domestically,” said U.S. Rep. Gene Green (D-Houston), the bill’s sponsor. “I am happy I was able to work with Sen. Hutchison to address this extremely important public health issue.”
Every year there are about nine million new tuberculosis cases in the world and 1.7 million die from the disease. In the United States in 2007, more than 13,293 people suffered from active tuberculosis. An estimated 10 million to 15 million have latent tuberculosis, which eventually becomes active in approximately 10 percent of cases. At current rates tuberculosis could kill 30 million people over the next decade.
“We’re looking to prevent tuberculosis, detect it in the population and treat people who already suffer from it,” Green said. “With an infectious disease, every time you successfully treat someone you are preventing several more cases.”
Green’s bill aims to defeat tuberculosis with a three-pronged attack suggested by the Institute of Medicine. In its report Ending Neglect: The Elimination of Tuberculosis in the U.S., the Institute found that with sufficient funding for research and development and prevention and control activities tuberculosis could be eliminated as a public health problem in the United States.
The Institute’s report also found that a resurgence of tuberculosis in the late 1980s and early 1990s was largely due to reductions in federal funding designated to fight the disease.
Green said his bill would allow researchers to develop more accurate diagnostic tests. Current tests don’t provide adequate detection of tuberculosis in children or people who are also infected with HIV. Green also said his bill could help scientists fight the growing threat of drug-resistant strains of the disease.
The bill’s specifics include $1.7 billion in authorized funding over five years for a variety of current and proposed federal efforts to fight tuberculosis. According to information from Green’s office, it would:
- Authorize grants within the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to fund a wide variety of projects to prevent, control, and eventually eliminate tuberculosis
- Reauthorize the Advisory Council on the Elimination of Tuberculosis, which coordinates federal efforts to control the disease and would develop a specific plan to eliminate it in the United States
- Provide funds for the CDC to expand research and development of new drugs, diagnostic tools and vaccines
- Provide for a federal tuberculosis task force to recommend new tools to eliminate tuberculosis
- Direct the National Institutes of Health to expand basic and clinical tuberculosis research, investigate the relationship between tuberculosis and HIV, and develop a tuberculosis vaccine