World Health Organization (WHO). Global tuberculosis report 2020: executive summary. Geneva; 2020. Licence: CC BY-NC-SA 3.0 IGO.
Tuberculosis (TB) is a communicable disease that is a major cause of ill health, one of the top 10 causes of death worldwide and the leading cause of death from a single infectious agent (ranking above HIV/AIDS). TB is caused by the bacillus Mycobacterium tuberculosis, which is spread when people who are sick with TB expel bacteria into the air; for example, by coughing. The disease typi-cally affects the lungs (pulmonary TB) but can also affect other sites (extrapulmonary TB). About a quarter of the world’s population is infected with M. tuberculosis.
TB can affect anyone anywhere, but most people who develop the disease are adults, there are more cases among men than women, and 30 high TB burden coun-tries account for almost 90% of those who fall sick with TB each year. TB is a disease of poverty, and economic distress, vulnerability, marginalization, stigma and dis-crimination are often faced by people affected by TB.
TB is curable and preventable. About 85% of people who develop TB disease can be successfully treated with a 6-month drug regimen; treatment has the additional ben-efit of curtailing onward transmission of infection. Since 2000, TB treatment has averted more than 60 million deaths, although with access still falling short of universal health coverage (UHC), many millions have also missed out on diagnosis and care. Preventive treatment is avail-able for people with TB infection. The number of people developing infection and disease (and thus the number of deaths) can also be reduced through multisectoral action to address TB determinants such as poverty, undernutri-tion, HIV infection, smoking and diabetes.
Research breakthroughs (e.g. a new vaccine) are need-ed to rapidly reduce TB incidence worldwide to the levels already achieved in low-burden countries, where TB is often regarded as a disease of the past.
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