Tuberculosis deaths fall in Europe

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* Cases of HIV-TB co-infections buck trend with increases
    * Experts say efforts must focus on high-risk groups
    * Drug-resistant TB strains also pose threat

    LONDON, March 20 (Reuters) - The number of people developing
and dying from tuberculosis (TB) is falling in Europe, but among
the most vulnerable - including migrants, prisoners and people
who are HIV positive - there have been worrying increases, data
showed on Monday.
    Figures from the European Centre for Disease Prevention and
Control (ECDC) and the Europe regional office of the World
Health Organization (WHO) showed new TB cases and deaths in the
53 countries of the WHO's European region fell each year by 4.3
and 8.5 percent respectively between 2011 and 2015.
    But new co-infections with TB and HIV together increased by
40 percent from 2011 to 2015, showing that efforts to control
the disease need to be far more focused on high risk groups.
    "The general downward trend in reported TB cases is
encouraging," the ECDC's acting director, Andrea Ammon, said in
a statement. "But some groups are not benefiting from this trend
and we need to target our efforts better if we want to end the
TB epidemic."
    She said providing testing to all TB patients for HIV, and
vice versa, followed by counselling and rapid treatment, could
reverse the negative co-infection trend.
    Global figures released last year by the WHO showed that in
2015, some 1.8 million people died from TB. Of them, 400,000
were co-infected with the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV)
that causes AIDS. [nL8N1CH5CQ]
    People with HIV are more vulnerable to TB because their
immune systems are weakened. Experts estimate the risk of
developing TB is between 26 and 31 times greater in HIV patients
than in HIV negative people.
    Zsuzsanna Jakab, the WHO's European regional director, said
the flare-up of TB/HIV co-infections, coupled with persistently
high rates of drug-resistant TB, were a serious threat to
international efforts to control the disease.

 (Reporting by Kate Kelland; Editing by Julia Glover)
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