Ominous news from WHO: Incredibly drug-resistant forms of tuberculosis are coursing through Europe, and will kill tens of thousands unless health officials intervene. WHO's regional director blamed the resurgence on complacency, noted that the disease "is evolving with a vengeance," and announced the creation of a plan intended to stamp out the pandemic. Reuters reports that documented cases of extensively drug-resistant TB ballooned six-fold between 2008 and 2009, and notes that these drug-resistant forms—which don't respond to first- and second-line courses of antibiotics—typically kill 50% of those who contract it. WHO estimates 81,000 cases of drug-resistant TB surface in Europe each year, reports the BBC.
Treatment comes at a steep price for these types of TB: It can take more than two years to treat with $16,000 worth of drugs. Add potential isolation hospital costs and medical care to that, and the total can balloon above $300,000. WHO's $5 billion plan would actually save $7 billion in treatment costs, it says, and would save 120,000 lives by 2015. The plan focuses on raising awareness of the disease's symptoms among doctors and patients, getting those who contract it the right drugs immediately, and tracking them to make sure they take the medication. (Read more tuberculosis stories.)