The following statement about World Tuberculosis Day 2018 was released Friday by Christine F. Sizemore, Ph.D., Richard Hafner, M.D., and Anthony S. Fauci, M.D.:
In the 130 years since the discovery of Mycobacterium tuberculosis (Mtb) — the bacterium that causes tuberculosis (TB) — at least 1 billion people have died from TB. That death toll is greater than the combined number of deaths from malaria, smallpox, HIV/AIDS, cholera, plague and influenza. Today, in commemoration of World TB Day, the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), part of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), renews and reinvigorates its commitment to the research needed to end this ancient scourge.
Mtb is transmitted through the air and primarily affects the lungs. TB is the leading killer among infectious diseases and among the top 10 causes of death worldwide. The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that in 2016, TB claimed the lives of 1.7 million people, including 250,000 children, and 10.4 million people were newly infected with Mtb. TB is the primary cause of death for individuals co-infected with HIV. According to the WHO, more than 2 billion people globally are “latently” infected with TB, meaning they carry the bacteria but are currently without symptoms, which would include cough, fever, weight loss and night sweats.
People with latent TB infection cannot actively transmit TB bacteria to another person. Up to 13 million people in the United States are estimated to have latent TB infection, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Overall, people with latent TB infection have a 5 to 15 percent lifetime risk of developing active TB disease. This risk increases for people with compromised immune systems, such as those living with HIV, people receiving immunosuppressive therapy (such as individuals being treated for cancer), as well as diabetics, smokers and the malnourished.