24 March: World Tuberculosis (TB) Day
Globally TB day is commemorated every year on March 24, the anniversary of the date when Dr. Robert Koch announced his discovery of Mycobacterium tuberculosis, the bacteria that causes TB, in 1882.
Despite being a curable and preventable disease, TB kills 1.4 million people annually, and 10 million new people contract the disease each year. Before the start of the COVID pandemic, TB was responsible for more deaths than any other infection globally.
TB and Norway
In Norway, TB mortality peaked around 1900 and TB disease was endemic until the 1950s. There has been a declining incidence of TB in Norway till the mid-1990s, when an increase occurred in parallel with increased immigration from TB endemic areas. This trend underlines the importance of achieving global TB control.
Global efforts to combat TB have saved an estimated 63 million lives since the year 2000. The SDG target 3.3 calls for, ending the TB epidemics by 2030. However, the COVID-19 pandemic has put progress in TB control at risk.
TB and COVID-19
In a USAID survey conducted in 2020, 83% of high TB endemic countries reported reallocation of TB healthcare workers to the COVID-19 response, and 57% reported a reduction in the number of beds available for in-patient treatment of drug-resistant TB, as well as a significant fall in TB notifications, implying that many people with TB are going untreated and are potentially transmitting the infection. These negative trends contradict the assumption that prevention measures for COVID-19 might have led to some reduction in the transmission of TB.
TB specialists around the world fear that there is a great risk for a surge in the TB cases and mortality in the aftermath of COVID-19 pandemic. Failure to improve the global response to TB could have catastrophic clinical and economic implications and could reverse the gains in global TB control attained pre-2020.
TB and COVID-19 have many common characteristics. Effective leadership, smart investment, and efficient coordinated efforts towards tackling both diseases and strengthening national health systems could lead to efficient control of both diseases – a better approach than the either/or scenario.
Read the article in sciencenorway.no
Hear Professor Mustafa be interviewed on NRK (in Norwegian at around 01:06:15)