Impact

TB currently is the infectious disease agent causing the highest number of deaths of any agents worldwide.

Mankind has been confronted with TB since ancient times. Modern strains of Mycobacterium tuberculosis seem to have originated from a common ancestor about 15,000-20,000 years ago. Archeological evidence of early TB has been found in for example Egyptian and Peruvian mummies, and was already described in classical Greece as phthisis. In 19th century Western Europe, TB reached mortality as high as 1000 deaths per 100,000 people. In the same century the first sanatoria were opened, where open-air treatment, rest, and nourishing food were used to “cure” TB patients. At that time, also thoracic surgeries were performed to control TB.

Globally, 10.4 million new TB cases arose in 2015, and a total of 1.8 million TB patients died. Of these deaths, 0.4 million were the consequence of TB disease among people living with HIV. The proportion of TB cases living with HIV was highest in the WHO African Region (31%), and exceeded 50% in parts of southern Africa. Furthermore, a third of the world’s population is estimated to be latently infected with the causative pathogen Mycobacterium tuberculosis, forming an enormous reservoir for new cases of active TB.