Tuberculosis is outrunning us. In the last few months, 53 patients in the South African province of KwaZulu-Natal were found to have a form of the disease resistant to enough existing drugs that it is virtually incurable. All but one of those patients have died.

Airborne and deadly, extensively drug-resistant TB is a nightmare disease. It has been found worldwide, including in the US. The accelerated pace of resistance comes from the world’s neglect of tuberculosis, which is best cured with a cocktail of four drugs, with medicines taken daily for six to nine months. But most patients who start this difficult regime fail to complete it, leading to resistance. Of the 9.5 million new TB cases globally every year, about 425,000 of them are resistant to the standard medicines.

The Global Alliance for TB Drug Development has six compounds in the pipeline. Money for clinical trials would speed things. But donors have always slighted tuberculosis. According to a new report by Results International, an advocacy group, the World Bank spent only $3.5 million directly on TB in Africa in 2005.

The Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation are big donors, but much more is needed. Stinginess created this problem.

Generosity is needed to fix it. — The New York Times