However, vulnerable groups for TB infection, such as people living with HIV, prisoners and migrants, do not benefit from this overall trend.
In particular, new TB/HIV co-infections increased by 40% over the same time period.
Providing testing to all TB patients for HIV and vice versa, together with counselling and rapid treatment, could reverse the negative trend.
Similar to the trend across the WHO European Region, the number of new TB cases in the European Union and European Economic Area (EU/EEA) has constantly been going down since 2002.
With an annual decrease of 5%, however, the EU/EEA will not reach the set target to end TB, which would require an annual decrease of at least 10%.
TB is a leading killer among people living with HIV. The deadly combination of TB/HIV co-infection has increased sharply from 5.5% to 9% over the last five years in the WHO European Region.
This is of special concern in a Region where HIV cumulative cases reached over 2 million for the first time in 2015.
Of an estimated 27 000 new TB/HIV patients in the WHO European Region in 2015, only about two thirds were diagnosed and 5800 started antiretroviral treatment, with around 40% of patients being successfully treated.
People suffering from TB/HIV co-infection are at seven times higher risk of failing treatment and have a three times higher risk of dying than people with TB disease only.
In contrast to the Region’s trend, EU/EEA countries have seen a decline in reported TB/HIV co-infections from around 6% in 2011 to 4.6% in 2015.
However, only 19 EU/EEA countries reported data on TB/HIV co-infection status in 2015, and this vital information was known only for one in three TB patients in the EU/EEA.
The WHO regional TB action plan for 2016–2020 and the policy on collaborative TB/HIV co-infection strongly recommend that European countries systematically provide HIV testing and counselling to all TB patients, and vice versa.
Following diagnosis, patients need to receive immediate antiretroviral drug treatment and be supported through integrated and person-centred TB/HIV health services.
Information on the burden of TB/HIV co-infection, including evidence on TB/HIV co-infection in groups at higher risk (such as migrants), is vital to achieving this objective.
Available data show that notification of TB cases in the EU/EEA is decreasing at a slower pace among residents of foreign origin (4%) than among native residents (7%).
This poses a major challenge for EU/EEA countries in their efforts to reach the TB elimination target in the coming years. To this end, targeted interventions for early detection and universal access to free-of-charge treatment and care for all, including migrants, are crucial.
New cases of MDR-TB continue to rise, and estimates suggest one in five multidrug-resistant MDR-TB cases globally in 2015 occurred in the European Region.
Although the number of MDR-TB patients successfully treated increased for the first time in 2015, only half had a positive treatment outcome, which is far below the 75% target.
The rate of notified MDR-TB cases in the EU/EEA has remained unchanged over the past five years at 0.3 per 100 000 population.
While the MDR-TB treatment success rate has continuously improved over the past five years, from 30% in 2009 to above 40%, it remains low overall.
World Tuberculosis Day is observed on 24 March each year around the world. ■
What to read next