Tuberculosis is a global pandemic, killing someone approximately every 22 seconds — about 1.4 million in 2019 alone.

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Below you will find information about another pandemic: tuberculosis (TB). TB is the leading infectious cause of death in the world, killing 1.4 million each year. TB Alliance stands in solidarity with the global fight against COVID-19. We hope the world will emerge from this crisis with a renewed commitment to aggressively anticipate and address global health threats and pandemics. Read our World TB Day 2020 statement.

TB is a Pandemic

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 1.8 billion people—close to one quarter of the world's population—are infected with Mycobacterium tuberculosis (M.tb), the bacteria that causes TB. Last year, 10 million fell ill from TB and 1.4 million died. 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 were more than half a million cases of drug resistant TB last year.

The Urgency of Defeating TB

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

  • 3836

    Deaths daily

    TB is the leading infectious killer in the world

  • 6-30


    TB therapy last from six months to longer than two years

  • 62%


    About 6 in 10 cases of MDR-TB around the world go untreated

  • $16.7 Trillion


    MDR-TB could cost the world $16.7 trillion by 2050

  • 1.2 Million


    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 over 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.

Drug Resistance

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. Multidrug-resistant TB (MDR-TB) and extensively drug-resistant TB (XDR-TB) are difficult to cure, and even when long, burdensome treatment regimens are completed, have high mortality rates. Once a drug-resistant strain has developed, it can be transmitted directly to others just like drug-susceptible TB.

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Treatment success declines rapidly with increasing drug resistance

World Health Organization, 2018

XDR-TB has been identified in more than 131 countries.