World Sees a Rise in Tuberculosis Death During Covid 19

The death and infection rate of Tuberculosis (TB) rose during the COVID-19 pandemic, which have a damaging impact on access to TB diagnosis and treatment and the burden of the disease, according to the World Health Organization(WHO).


In its latest Global TB report, the WHO said that an estimated 10.6 million people fell ill with TB in 2021, an increase of 4.5 per cent over 2020, and 1.6 million people died from the disease.

“In 2021, there were an estimated 1.4 million deaths among HIV-negative people (95% uncertainty interval [UI ]: 1.3–1.5 million) and 187 000 deaths (95% UI : 158 000–218 000) among HIV-positive people,a for a combined total of 1.6 million. This was up from best estimates of 1.5 million in 2020 and 1.4 million in 2019, and back to the level of 2017. The net reduction from 2015 to 2021 was 5.9%, about one sixth of the way to the first milestone of the WHO End TB Strategy,” the WHO said in the report.


From a peak of 7.1 million newly diagnosed  in 2019, this fell to 5.8 million in 2020 (–18%), back to the level last seen in 2012. In 2021, the WHO report said. The three countries that accounted for most of the reduction in 2020 were India, Indonesia and the Philippines (67% of the global total). They made partial recoveries in 2021, but still accounted for 60% of the global reduction compared with 2019, it added. Other high TB burden countries with large relative year-to-year reductions (>20%) included Bangladesh (2020), Lesotho (2020 and 2021), Myanmar (2020 and 2021), Mongolia (2021) and Viet Nam (2021), the report pointed out.


▶ Globally, the success rate for people treated for TB in 2020 was 86%, the same level as 2019, suggesting

that the quality of care was maintained in the first year of the CO VID-19 pandemic.

▶ I n the WHO African Region, the impact of COVID related disruptions on the reported number of people newly diagnosed with TB was limited. There was a relatively small decrease (–2.3%) from 2019–2020 and

an increase in 2021.

▶ Following large falls in 2020, the reported number of people newly diagnosed with TB in 2021 recovered to 2019 levels (or beyond) in five high TB burden countries: Bangladesh, the Congo, Pakistan, Sierra Leone and Uganda.

▶ The global number of people provided with TB preventive treatment recovered in 2021, to close to 2019 levels, and the global target for provision of treatment to people living with HIV was surpassed.

▶ Three high TB burden countries have reached or passed the first milestones of the End TB Strategy for both reductions in TB incidence and TB deaths: Kenya (in 2018), the United Republic of Tanzania (in 2019) and Zambia (in 2021). Ethiopia is very close.


“If the pandemic has taught us anything, it’s that with solidarity, determination, innovation and the equitable use of tools, we can overcome severe health threats. Let’s apply those lessons to tuberculosis. It is time to put a stop to this long-time killer. Working together, we can end TB,” said WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.

On the report, WHO Global TB Programme  Director Dr Tereza Kasaeva said, “The report provides important new evidence and makes a strong case for the need to join forces and urgently redouble efforts to get the TB response back on track to reach TB targets and save lives. It will be an essential resource for countries, partners and civil society in the lead up to the second UN high-level meeting on TB to be held in 2023.”


The report calls for intensified efforts backed by increased funding to mitigate and reverse the negative impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on TB. It also calls for increased investments, and action, to address the broader determinants that influence TB epidemics and their socioeconomic impact as well as the need for new diagnostics, drugs and vaccines.  


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