Tuberculosis is a global pandemic, killing someone approximately every 20 seconds — nearly 1.5 million in 2014 alone.
A Global Threat
Tuberculosis (TB) is a global disease, found in every country in the world. It is the leading infectious cause of death worldwide. The World Health Organization estimates that two billion people—one third of the world's population—are infected with Mycobacterium tuberculosis (M.tb), the bacteria that causes TB. Each year, 9.6 million fall ill from TB and 1.5 million die. TB is an airborne disease that can be spread by coughing or sneezing and is the leading cause of infectious disease worldwide. It is responsible for economic devastation and the cycle of poverty and illness that entraps families, communities and even entire countries. Among the most vulnerable are women, children, and those with HIV/AIDS. There is growing resistance to available drugs, which means the disease is becoming more deadly and difficult to treat. There are 480,000 cases of MDR-TB each year.
What is TB?
Tuberculosis, or TB, is a bacterial infection that can spread through the air. It is most often found in the lungs, but can exist in any organ in your body. When a person coughs or sneezes, they can transmit so-called “active” TB. However, many people are also infected with an inactive form of TB, known as latent TB. The bacillus that causes the disease is called Mycobacterium tuberculosis (M.tb). M.tb's unique cell wall, which has a waxy coating primarily composed of mycolic acids, allows the bacillus to lie dormant for many years. The body's immune system may restrain the disease, but it does not destroy it. While some people with this latent infection will never develop active TB, five to 10 percent of carriers will become sick in their lifetime.
Get the Facts
TB is the leading infectious killer in the world
TB therapy last from six months to longer than two years
3 out of 4 cases of MDR-TB around the world go untreated
MDR-TB could cost the world $16.7 trillion by 2050
A million children get sick with TB each year
“We cannot hope to end TB without dramatically shorter, simpler and better treatments.”
TB+HIV: A Dual Epidemic
TB and HIV/AIDS are a deadly duo. HIV weakens people’s immune systems, allowing TB to flourish. TB is the leading killer of people with HIV/AIDS, claiming one in four lives of people with HIV. And, in countries where TB is prevalent, people with HIV/AIDS are 20 times more likely to contract TB than others without HIV. Despite enormous gains made in battling the HIV epidemic, TB’s deadly synergy with HIV/AIDS threatens to destabilize gains in TB control. While people are living with HIV, they are now dying of TB.
A Growing Threat
MDR-TB, multidrug-resistant TB, is defined by resistance to the two most commonly used drugs in the current four-drug (or first-line) regimen, isoniazid and rifampin. It is the result of interrupted, erratic, or inadequate TB therapy, and its spread is undermining efforts to control the global TB epidemic. Drug-resistant TB develops when the long, complex, decades-old TB drug regimen is improperly administered, or when people with TB stop taking their medicines before the disease has been fully eradicated from their body. Once a drug-resistant strain has developed, it can be transmitted directly to others just like drug-susceptible TB. There are nearly a half million cases of drug-resistant TB each year. MDR-TB is such a global health threat because the medicines are very expensive, take years to work, and ultimately inadequate to stop the disease and its spread.
Antimicrobial resistance is dangerous in all its forms, however, MDR-TB yields a global threat to health and economic development. A recent report from a UK parliamentary group stated over the next 35 years, multidrug-resistant tuberculosis will kill 75 million people and could cost the global economy a cumulative $16.7 trillion — the equivalent of the European Union’s annual output.
Extensively drug-resistant tuberculosis, or XDR-TB, is a strain of tuberculosis, airborne and infectious, that is resistant to four commonly used anti-TB drugs. Essentially, there is no cure and XDR-TB is often considered a death sentence. XDR-TB has been confirmed in more than 100 countries around the world. There are an estimated 40,000 people infected with XDR-TB today—ten percent of all MDR-TB cases. Without new treatments, XDR-TB is emerging as an extremely deadly and costly global health threat that the world is inadequately equipped to tackle.