The European Respiratory Society (ERS) and the European Region of the International Union Against TB and Lung Disease (The Union) experts lament that refugees travelling across the European countries are at an increased risk of acquiring tuberculosis. In their study published online in the European Respiratory Journal, they urge for an improved TB diagnosis, treatment and prevention approach for these group of people.

They suggest quality surveillance, monitoring, evaluation and research, as well as better access to treatments and care. They encourage the collaboration between national health authorities to help solve this basic human rights issue.

“TB is not easily transmitted and it is treatable, therefore, efforts should be implemented to detect and treat it promptly,” says Ivan Solovic, the president of The Union and Chair of the ERS. “If better treatment options are not available for this group of people, there could be a rise in the number of cases of the disease and related deaths, which could also further contribute to increases in drug-resistant cases of TB.”

Syrian and Afghan refugees in Dobova, Slovenia, 23 October 2015. Photo from Wikipedia/SV

Syrian and Afghan refugees in Dobova, Slovenia, 23 October 2015. Photo from Wikipedia/SV

The research team adds that 9.6 million people around the world are affected by TB. In 2014 alone, 1.5 million have died from this disease.

Nevertheless, the ERS and the World Health Organisation (WHO) have created an online platform where clinicians can share information with one another when a patient has crossed borders. Apparently, this is the first one in Europe to exchange notes on TB that allows health professionals to gather knowledge on how to treat stubborn TB cases and obtain knowledge from TB experts from around the world.

“It is crucial that we facilitate better cooperation across borders,” says ERS Secretary General and study author Giovanni Battista Migliori. “Our new online platform is one method of doing this but we also need better coordination from national health authorities and financial support from the European Commission … We know it is possible to eliminate TB and every effort should be made to prevent the spread of this deadly disease.”