Category Archives: Public Health

World TB Day 2021 (24 March): ‘The Clock is Ticking’

World TB Day is celebrated on 24th March each year to raise public awareness about the devastating health, social and economic consequences of TB, and to step up efforts to end the global TB epidemic.

The date marks the day in 1882 when Dr Robert Koch announced that he had discovered the bacterium that causes TB, which opened the way towards diagnosing and curing this disease.

Background Information:

Tuberculosis (TB) is caused by bacteria (Mycobacterium tuberculosis) that most often affect the lungs. Tuberculosis is curable and preventable.

TB is spread from person to person through the air. When people with lung TB cough, sneeze or spit, they propel the TB germs into the air. A person needs to inhale only a few of these germs to become infected.

About one-quarter of the world’s population has a TB infection, which means people have been infected by TB bacteria but are not (yet) ill with the disease and cannot transmit it.

People infected with TB bacteria have a 5–10% lifetime risk of falling ill with TB. Those with compromised immune systems, such as people living with HIV, malnutrition or diabetes, or people who use tobacco, have a higher risk of falling ill.

Key Messages:

TB remains one of the world’s deadliest infectious killers. Each day, nearly 4000 lose their lives to TB and close to 28,000 people fall ill with this preventable and curable disease. Global efforts to combat TB have saved an estimated 63 million lives since the year 2000.

The theme of World TB Day 2021 – ‘The Clock is Ticking’ –conveys the sense that the world is running out of time to act on the commitments to end TB made by global leaders. This is especially critical in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic that has put End TB progress at risk, and to ensure equitable access to prevention and care in line with WHO’s drive towards achieving Universal Health Coverage.

A total of 1.4 million people died from TB in 2019 (including 208 000 people with HIV). Worldwide, TB is one of the top 10 causes of death and the leading cause from a single infectious agent (above HIV/AIDS).

When a person develops active TB disease, the symptoms (such as cough, fever, night sweats, or weight loss) may be mild for many months. This can lead to delays in seeking care, and results in transmission of the bacteria to others.

WHO recommends the use of rapid molecular diagnostic tests as the initial diagnostic test in all persons with signs and symptoms of TB as they have high diagnostic accuracy and will lead to major improvements in the early detection of TB and drug-resistant TB. Rapid tests recommended by WHO are the Xpert MTB/RIF, Xpert Ultra and Truenat assays.

People with active TB can infect 5–15 other people through close contact over the course of a year.

Without proper treatment, 45% of HIV-negative people with TB on average and nearly all HIV-positive people with TB will die.

People living with HIV are 18 (15-21) times more likely to develop active TB disease than people without HIV.

In 2019, an estimated 10 million people fell ill with tuberculosis(TB) worldwide. 5.6 million men, 3.2 million women and 1.2 million children. TB is present in all countries and age groups. But TB is curable and preventable.

In 2019, 1.2 million children fell ill with TB globally. Child and adolescent TB is often overlooked by health providers and can be difficult to diagnose and treat.

In 2019, the 30 high TB burden countries accounted for 87% of new TB cases. Eight countries account for two thirds of the total, with India leading the count, followed by Indonesia, China, the Philippines, Pakistan, Nigeria, Bangladesh and South Africa.

Anti-TB medicines have been used for decades and strains that are resistant to one or more of the medicines have been documented in every country surveyed. Drug resistance emerges when anti-TB medicines are used inappropriately, through incorrect prescription by health care providers, poor quality drugs, and patients stopping treatment prematurely.

Multidrug-resistant tuberculosis (MDR-TB) is a form of TB caused by bacteria that do not respond to isoniazid and rifampicin, the 2 most effective first-line anti-TB drugs. MDR-TB is treatable and curable by using second-line drugs. However, second-line treatment options are limited and require extensive chemotherapy (up to 2 years of treatment) with medicines that are expensive and toxic.

In some cases, more severe drug resistance can develop. TB caused by bacteria that do not respond to the most effective second-line anti-TB drugs can leave patients without any further treatment options.

Multidrug-resistant TB (MDR-TB) remains a public health crisis and a health security threat. A global total of 206 030 people with multidrug- or rifampicin-resistant TB (MDR/RR-TB) were detected and notified in 2019, a 10% increase from 186 883 in 2018.

About half of the global burden of MDR-TB is in 3 countries – India, China and the Russian Federation.

Worldwide, only 57% of MDR-TB patients are currently successfully treated.

Globally, TB incidence is falling at about 2% per year and between 2015 and 2019 the cumulative reduction was 9%. This was less than half way to the End TB Strategy milestone of 20% reduction between 2015 and 2020.

An estimated 60 million lives were saved through TB diagnosis and treatment between 2000 and 2019.

Ending the TB epidemic by 2030 is among the health targets of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

Useful Links:

Link to the World TB Day 2021 site:

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