Over the last few years remarkable progress has been made in global health, especially in the control of diseases such as HIV/AIDS and malaria. Less attention has been paid to tuberculosis however. (See chart below)
Doing more to address TB would have extemely beneficial effects.
First and foremost, it would save hundreds of thousands of TB patients from suffering and death. The great majority of TB cases can be cured with inexpensive and easily available drugs. But without treatment about 70% of TB patients will die.
Second, curing active TB cases is the most effective way to prevent the disease from spreading.
Third, because TB mostly affects people in their main parenting and working years, doing more to address TB would have large-scale benefits for families and for broader economies in addition to the direct benefits to the TB sufferers.
Finally, lack of adequate attention to ensuring high-quality TB programs has led to the emergence of drug-resistant forms of the disease, which are much more difficult to cure. TB is generally spread through the air, so the result is that the health of people everywhere is now threatened by a highly contagious and extremely dangerous form of the disease. Drug resistant strains have appeared in nearly every country in the world – including the U.S.
Despite these facts, TB remains by far the most under-funded of U.S. global infectious disease programs relative to its disease burden.
1.3 million people died from TB in 2016, and a further 400,000 people died due to HIV-TB co-infection.
Seven countries account for 64% of total global TB cases (India, Indonesia, China, Philippines, Pakistan, Nigeria, and South Africa)
Although TB is mainly a disease of adults, in 2016, an estimated 1 million children became ill with TB and 250,000 children died of TB.
TB treatment has been proven to be massively effective: an estimated 53 million lives were saved through TB diagnosis and treatment between 2000 and 2016.