The United States and the international community have an urgent mandate to prepare the nation for an immense global and domestic threat from tuberculosis (TB), as a very serious gap exists in current systems to protect the public from the spread of TB.

It is critical that we realize that the fight against tuberculosis is both an urgent U.S. issue and a global threat of immense proportions. We also face the emerging appearance of drug-resistant strains of tuberculosis -- against which no current drug or combination of drugs can combat.

About 9 million people worldwide contract active tuberculosis each year and about 2 million of those die from the disease. In the U.S., nearly 14,000 cases of active TB were reported in 2006, with an estimated 10 million to 15 million more carrying latent versions of the infection.

The answer to address this threat is not just more money -- nor should it focus on heavy-handed, federal directives to state and local agencies, except where urgently needed. Much more preferable is greater flexibility for the federal authorities on the ground, and better collaboration with state and local agencies.

The hazard posed by drug-resistant TB to create a virtually unstoppable epidemic is a very real specter we must confront and combat -- both nationally and globally.

The case last spring of the Atlanta lawyer Andrew Speaker made international headlines and drew needed attention to this danger. The Speaker case dramatically illustrated the flaws in the nation’s TB defenses now in place, as confirmed by the eleventh-hour deployment of containment efforts.

Efforts to combat and control TB should focus on better coordinating resources and efforts at the international, national, state and local levels, while harnessing new technologies and private sector innovation.

Sen. Mike EnziMichael (Mike) Bradley EnziChamber of Commerce endorses Ernst for reelection Republicans battle over COVID-19 package's big price tag Conservative group launches ad campaign for Rep. Roger Marshall in Kansas Senate race MORE is Ranking Member of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee.