World TB Day is recognized on March 24 to commemorate the date in 1882 when Dr. Robert Koch announced his discovery of Mycobacterium tuberculosis, the bacillus that causes tuberculosis (TB).


The theme of World TB Day 2017 is “Unite to End TB.”

TB, the world’s top infectious disease killer, claims 5,000 lives each day, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).

The heaviest burden is carried by communities which already face socio-economic challenges: migrants, refugees, prisoners, ethnic minorities, miners and others working and living in risk-prone settings, and marginalized women, children and older people.

Today, WHO released new tuberculosis (TB) ethics guidance aimed to help ensure that countries implementing the End TB Strategy adhere to sound ethical standards to protect the rights of all those affected.

Poverty, malnutrition, poor housing and sanitation, compounded by other risk factors such as HIV, tobacco, alcohol use and diabetes, can put people at heightened risk of TB and make it harder for them to access care. More than a third (4.3 million) of people with TB go undiagnosed or unreported, some receive no care at all and others access care of questionable quality.

The new WHO ethics guidance addresses contentious issues such as, the isolation of contagious patients, the rights of TB patients in prison, discriminatory policies against migrants affected by TB, among others. It emphasizes five key ethical obligations for governments, health workers, care providers, nongovernmental organizations, researchers and other stakeholders to:

  • provide patients with the social support they need to fulfil their responsibilities
  • refrain from isolating TB patients before exhausting all options to enable treatment adherence and only under very specific conditions
  • enable “key populations” to access same standard of care offered to other citizens
  • ensure all health workers operate in a safe environment
  • rapidly share evidence from research to inform national and global TB policy updates.

Some key facts about TB:

  • Tuberculosis (TB) is one of the top 10 causes of death worldwide.
  • In 2015, 10.4 million people fell ill with TB and 1.8 million died from the disease (including 0.4 million among people with HIV). Over 95% of TB deaths occur in low- and middle-income countries.
  • Six countries account for 60% of the total, with India leading the count, followed by Indonesia, China, Nigeria, Pakistan and South Africa.
  • In 2015, an estimated 1 million children became ill with TB and 170 000 children died of TB (excluding children with HIV).
  • TB is a leading killer of HIV-positive people: in 2015, 35% of HIV deaths were due to TB.
  • Globally in 2015, an estimated 480 000 people developed multidrug-resistant TB (MDR-TB).
  • TB incidence has fallen by an average of 1.5% per year since 2000. This needs to accelerate to a 4–5% annual decline to reach the 2020 milestones of the “End TB Strategy”.
  • An estimated 49 million lives were saved through TB diagnosis and treatment between 2000 and 2015.
  • Ending the TB epidemic by 2030 is among the health targets of the newly adopted Sustainable Development Goals.

In the US

Although tuberculosis (TB) is preventable and curable, many people in the United States still suffer from this disease. Anyone can get TB, and our current efforts to find and treat latent TB infection and TB disease are not sufficient. Misdiagnosis of TB still exists and health care professionals often do not “think TB.”


Up to 13 million people in the U.S. are estimated to have latent tuberculosis (TB) infection.

Latent TB infection is a condition in which a person is infected with the TB bacteria, but does not currently have active TB disease and cannot spread TB to others. However, if these bacteria become active and multiply, latent TB infection can turn into TB disease.

Without treatment, on average 5-10% of people with latent TB infection will develop TB disease. For some people, that risk is much higher

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says TB elimination would have widespread health, economic, and social benefits for our country.  A typical TB case in the United States costs $18,000 to treat and requires at least 180 days of medication, plus x-rays, lab tests, and follow-up and testing of contacts.