Washington: India accounts for one quarter of all tuberculosis cases in the world though the disease has shown a decline globally for the first time, according to provisional figures released by the World Health Organisation.

According to the WHO 2011 Global Tuberculosis Control Report, India was among the five countries which recorded the largest number of incident cases in 2010.

India topped the list with 2–2.5 million cases last year, while China reported 0.9-1.2 million cases, followed by South Africa (0.40-0.59 million), Indonesia (0.37-0.54 million) and Pakistan (0.33-0.48 million).

India alone accounted for one quarter (or 26 percent) of all TB cases worldwide, and China and India combined accounted for 38 percent, the report said, adding that estimates for India have not yet been officially approved by the Government of India and should therefore be considered provisional.

However, the global figures for the infectious disease have been very encouraging. The report shows that a total of 8.8 million people around the world fell ill with TB last year, down from a peak of nine million people in 2005.

Deaths from TB also fell globally to its lowest level in a decade to 1.4 million in 2010 after peaking at 1.8 million in 2003, the report said.

The worldwide figures represent a significant milestone in the battle against a disease that infects one third of the world's population, said Mario Raviglione, head of WHO's Stop TB Department said.

"We are seeing a significant benchmark in the control of the epidemic. This is a sign that the commitment and investment in TB control has paid off," Raviglione said.

According to the WHO, spectacular progress was made in China, where the death rate fell by almost 80 percent between 1990 and 2010.

In Kenya and Tanzania there has also been a substantial decline in the last decade after a peak linked to the HIV epidemic, it said. UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said there was no cause for complacency. "This is major progress. But it is no cause for complacency," he said in a statement.

"Too many millions still develop TB each year, and too many die. I urge serious and sustained support for TB prevention and care, especially for the world's poorest and
most vulnerable people," he said.

However, the WHO warned that a lack of funds threatens progress, with a projected gap in funding of USD 1 billion for 2012.

Another problem, it pointed out, is the growing prevalence of multi-drug resistant TB.

Of the 12 million people living with active tuberculosis last year, 650,000 were infected with multiple drug-resistant strains of the TB bacterium, which makes a cure more expensive and less likely. The overall cure rate for treated new cases of TB was about 87 percent.