Many people think of tuberculosis (TB) as a disease of the past, but in 2016 more than 10.4 million people became sick with TB and 1.7 million people died from the disease – making it the world’s top infectious disease killer. TB is the leading cause of death among people living with HIV, and the main cause of deaths related to antimicrobial resistance. In 2016, approximately 1 million children developed TB, and close to 250,000 died from the disease. This epidemic is an urgent threat that deserves an urgent response.
What is TB?
Tuberculosis is an airborne infectious disease that has existed for centuries, with evidence of the disease found in ancient Egyptian mummies. TB used to be called consumption, and in the 19th and 20th centuries was the leading cause of death in industrialized countries. Caused by a bacterial infection with Mycobacterium tuberculosis (MTb), TB most commonly affects the lungs but can affect any organ in the body.
About 1/3 of the world is infected with Mtb. That’s more than 2 billion people. Most of those people will clear the infection on their own, but around 10% will progress to TB disease – meaning they have active symptoms and can spread the infection to others simply by coughing or sneezing. On average, a person with active TB will spread the disease to 10 to 15 people within a year. Symptoms of tuberculosis include coughing up blood, night sweats, weight loss and exhaustion.
TB Anywhere is TB Everywhere
TB is not limited by national boundaries. In recent years, major outbreaks of the disease have cropped up in places where TB had long been forgotten. London is known as the TB capital of Europe, and St. Paul, Minnesota recently experienced the largest outbreak of multi-drug resistant TB the US has ever seen. Globally, more than 123 countries have reported cases of extensively drug-resistant TB (XDR-TB). Aeras and our partners are working diligently to develop vaccines to protect against all forms of TB everywhere.
Source: WHO Global Tuberculosis Report 2016.