10 facts about tuberculosis

World TB Day raises awareness about the global epidemic of tuberculosis (TB) and efforts to eliminate the disease. About one third of the world’s population is infected with tuberculosis (TB) bacteria. Only a small proportion of those infected will become sick with TB.

People with weakened immune systems have a much greater risk of falling ill from TB. A person living with HIV is about 20 to 30 times more likely to develop active TB.

Reaching the Millennium Development Goal to reverse the tuberculosis epidemic by 2015 is in sight. WHO’s Stop TB Strategy aims to ensure universal access to diagnosis, treatment and care for all people affected by TB, and drive down TB deaths and burden.

The annual event on 24 March marks the day in 1882 when Dr Robert Koch detected the cause of tuberculosis, the TB bacillus. This was a first step towards diagnosing and curing tuberculosis. WHO is working to cut TB prevalence rates and deaths by half by 2015.

Here are some interesting facts about TB

1. In 2010 8.8 million people fell ill with TB

But tuberculosis is curable and preventable.

2. A total of 1.4 million people died from TB in 2010 (including 350 000 people with HIV)

TB remains one of the world’s top infectious killers. About 95% of TB deaths occur in low- and middle-income countries and it is among the top three causes of death among women aged 15 to 44.

3. Up to 70 000 children died due to TB globally in 2010

Childhood TB is often overlooked by health providers and can be difficult to diagnosis and treat. There are about 10 million orphan children as a result of adult TB deaths.

4. TB is the leading killer of people living with HIV

About one in four deaths among people with HIV is due to TB. But about 910 000 lives were saved over six years (2005 to 2010) through coordinated TB and HIV services to detect, prevent and treat the dual infections.

5. The number of people falling ill with TB is declining and the TB death rate dropped 40% since 1990

For example, Brazil and China have showed a sustained decline in TB cases over the past 20 years. In this period China, had an 80% decline in deaths.

6. About 80% of reported TB cases occurred in 22 countries in 2010

TB occurs in every part of the world. Forty percent of new TB cases occurred in South-East Asia in 2010. The greatest rate of new cases per capita was in sub-Saharan Africa. No country has ever eliminated this disease.

7. Multidrug-resistant TB (MDR-TB) does not respond to standard treatments and is difficult and costly to treat

MDR-TB is a form of TB that is present in virtually all countries surveyed by WHO. The primary cause of multi-drug resistance is the inappropriate or incorrect use of anti-TB drugs.

8. There were an estimated 650 000 people with MDR-TB in 2010

In some cases an even more severe form of multi-drug resistant TB may develop with bad treatment. Extensively drug-resistant TB (XDR-TB) is a form of TB that responds to even fewer available medicines.

9. About 46 million TB patients have been successfully treated since 1995 worldwide

Up to 7 million lives have been saved since 1995 through DOTS and the Stop TB Strategy.

10. The world is on track to achieve two global TB targets set for 2015:

The Millennium Development Goal, which aims to halt and reverse global incidence; and the Stop TB Partnership target of halving deaths from TB ( in comparison with 1990).

Source: World Health Organisation