Tuberculosis on the rise after years of decline
TB killed around 1.6 million people in 2021, up 14% in two years.
After years of decline in numbers, tuberculosis is making a harsh rebound, killing around 1.6 million people in 2021, which is a 14% increase in the last 2 years, according to the World Health Organization on Thursday.
Tuberculosis is caused by a bacteria that is known to affect the lungs. Like COVID-19, it is transmitted through the air by infected people; it is preventable and curable.
Tuberculosis has recently been dubbed as a worse threat than COVID-19, claiming 1.5 million lives in 2020 and 1.4 million in 2019. The disease's resurgence is blamed on, according to the WHO, the pandemic, since the crisis had a huge and ongoing impact on access to diagnosis and treatment.
"Globally, the annual estimated number of deaths from TB fell between 2005 and 2019, but the estimates for 2020 and 2021 suggest that this trend has been reversed," wrote the WHO in its most recent Global TB report.
Most of the deaths are coming from four countries: India, Indonesia, Myanmar, and the Philippines. TB will "once again be the leading cause of death worldwide from a single infectious agent, replacing Covid-19," the report wrote.
Last week, Mel Spigelman, president of the non-profit TB Alliance, lauded the Covid pandemic's rapid and dramatic progress, with a vast array of safe and effective vaccines, tests, and treatments developed in less than two years.
"But the juxtaposition with TB is pretty stark," he said as quoted by AFP.
Before Covid-19, tuberculosis was the world's leading infectious disease, killing 1.5 million people each year.
"TB has regained the dubious distinction," Spigelman said, referring to the steady decline in global Covid deaths.
According to the TB Alliance, a non-profit organization that works to develop and deliver faster-acting and more affordable drugs against the disease, particularly in poorer countries, TB kills 4,109 people per day, while 1,449 people die each day as a result of Covid, based on the 40,578 deaths reported in the previous 28 days on the Johns Hopkins University dashboard.
However, unlike Covid, there appears to be little, if any, interest in taking on TB.