The number of people diagnosed with tuberculosis (TB) has dropped for the first time ever, according to a report from the World Health Organization (WHO).

The death toll from TB has also declined to its lowest level in a decade, with big progress witnessed in countries like China, Brazil, Kenya and Tanzania.

Specifically, WHO’s report indicated that he number of people falling ill with TB slipped to 8.8 million in 2010, after peaking at 9 million in 2005; deaths caused by TB deaths fell to 1.4 million in 2010, after reaching 1.8 million in 2003. Moreover, the TB death rate declined by 40 percent between 1990 and 2010, and all regions, except Africa, are scheduled to achieve a 50 percent decline in mortality by 2015, In addition, in 2009, 87 percent of TB patients treated were cured, while 46 million people were successfully treated and 7 million lives have been saved since 1995.

China made particularly extraordinary success against TB.

WHO noted that the Chinese death rate from TB plunged by nearly 80 percent between 1990 and 2010. In Kenya and

The progress has been attributed to “expanded efforts in large countries,” WHO said.

In many countries, strong leadership and domestic financing, with robust donor support, has started to make a real difference in the fight against TB, said WHO's Director-General, Dr Margaret Chan in a statement.

The challenge now is to build on that commitment, to increase the global effort -- and to pay particular attention to the growing threat of multi-drug-resistant TB.

WHO cautioned however, that fully one-third of estimated TB cases worldwide have not been notified and thus it is unknown if they have been diagnosed and properly treated.

WHO further warned that additional gains against the disease will be curtailed by a decrease in funds for research and development of new drugs.

Fewer people are dying of tuberculosis, and fewer are falling ill. This is major progress. But it is no cause for complacency. said United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon in a statement.

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

Indeed, while the share of domestic funding allocated to TB rose by 86 percent for 2012, WHO pointed out that most low-income countries still rely heavily on external funding.

“Overall, countries have reported a funding shortfall of $1 billion for TB implementation in 2012,” the group said.

TB is also closely linked to the HIV virus, particularly in Africa.

“People living with HIV, who are also infected with the bacteria causing TB, are up to 34 times more likely to develop TB disease,” WHO explained.

“In 2010, 1.1 million people living with HIV developed TB – 82 percent of them (900 000 people) in Africa. Worldwide, 12 percent of TB patients have HIV co-infection.”

Tuberculosis is an infectious disease that typically affects the lungs. The disease is usually transmitted through droplets from the lungs of people with the disease.