Beware of the World's Most Deadly Infectious Disease: Tuberculosis

March 24, 2020

It’s going to kill 4 million people this year, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). In 2018, 10 million people fell ill with it and 1.5 million died. It’s the world’s worst infectious disease and today’s the day when the world began fighting back. 

On March 24, 1882 Robert Koch, MD, announced the discovery of Mycobacterium tuberculosis, which causes tuberculosis (TB). It had previously been believed by many that TB was inherited rather than being an infectious disease.

The theme this year for World Tuberculosis (TB) Day is “It’s Time.” The WHO said in a statement that it wants to accelerate “the TB response to save lives and end suffering, building on high level commitments by Heads of State at the 2018 UN High-Level Meeting on TB.” 

The “It’s Time”theme highlights that now is the time to scale up access to prevention and treatment, to ensure sustainable resources are dedicated to TB research, and to ramp up an equitable global strategy to control an infectious disease that is responsible for immense social burdens.

The WHO listed TB among its urgent infectious disease challenges to address this decade, noting that TB, HIV, viral hepatitis, and malaria will lead to an estimated 4 million deaths in 2020.

“CDC [US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention] joins the global community to recognize World Tuberculosis (TB) Day-an important moment to unite in renewed commitment to ending TB, an airborne disease that knows no borders,” according to the CDC statement.

An article in the CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report presented a range of information on TB, from both the US and global health figures.

“In 2019, a provisional total of 8,920 TB cases were reported in the United States (incidence = 2.7 cases per 100,000 persons), a 1.1% decrease from the 9021 cases reported during 2018 and the lowest number of U.S. cases recorded since reporting began in 1953,” the authors wrote.

The report also detailed that the 10 million cases and 1.5 million deaths from TB worldwide in 2018 represent 2% and 5% declines from 2017, respectively.

In addition, about 862,000 reported TB infections occurred in people living with HIV. In 2018, 1.8 million people living with HIV began TB preventative treatment, which is an 88% increase from 2017.

Past research has shown that in TB-endemic areas, community-wide screening regardless of symptoms may be helpful.

This story originally appeared in ContagionLive!®