TB the biggest infectious disease killer globally

30 October 2015
TB treatment in Haiti

For the first time ever, more people have died from tuberculosis (TB) than from HIV, making TB the biggest infectious disease killer globally, says the World Health Organisation’s 2015 World Tuberculosis Report. In 2014, around 1.5 million people died of TB, compared with roughly 1.2 million for HIV.

For the second year running, the number of people living with TB rose, from 9 million in 2013 to 9.6 million in 2014. The rise is attributed to better reporting of TB, rather than the increased spread of the disease, and includes large numbers of undiagnosed people.

Alarmingly, only one in four multi-drug resistant TB (MDR-TB) cases are diagnosed, representing major gaps in detection and diagnosis. In addition, two out of five people with TB are not receiving treatment and care.                              

Yet, positively, the number of people dying from TB has halved since 1990. Most of these gains have been made since 2000, when the goal of halting and reversing TB was met under the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). During this period, effective diagnosis and treatment of TB is estimated to have saved 43 million lives.

Resourcing for the TB epidemic remains a challenge going forward. In 2014, the HIV response received nearly eight times more money than TB response, despite the global burden being relatively similar. If the same gains are to be made, similar levels of investment and commitment are needed.

Hannah Bowen, Director of ACTION, a global health advocacy organisation said: “This is a testament to the impact of aggressive action and ambitious funding on changing the course of a global epidemic like HIV. It’s also a reminder of steady, but slow and fragile, progress against TB.”

Photo credit:
©iStock.com/ PAHO. Photos are used for illustrative purposes. They do not imply any health status or behaviour on the part of the people in the photo.