WHO says tuberculosis deaths rose sharply during COVID-19 pandemic

Mycobacterium Tuberculosis seen through light microscope. /UIG Via Getty Images

The number of people infected with tuberculosis, including the kind resistant to drugs, rose globally for the first time in years, according to a report Thursday by the World Health Organization.

The UN health agency said more than 10 million people worldwide were sickened by tuberculosis in 2021, a 4.5 percent rise from 2020. About 1.6 million people died, it said.

WHO said about 450,000 cases involved people infected with drug-resistant TB, 3% more than in 2020.

WHO also blamed COVID-19 for much of the rise in TB, saying the pandemic “continues to have a damaging impact on access to TB diagnosis and treatment.”
Health services overall were hard hit during the pandemic, but its impact on TB response has been particularly severe a situation that has been worsened by ongoing conflicts in Europe, Africa, and the Middle East.

If the pandemic has taught us anything, it’s that with solidarity, determination, innovation, and the equitable use of tools, we can overcome severe health threats,” said WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus. “Let’s apply those lessons to tuberculosis. It is time to put a stop to this long-time killer. Working together, we can end TB.”

TB is the world’s second deadliest infectious killer, after COVID-19. The disease is caused by bacteria that most often affect the lungs but is both preventable and curable.

Original article published by the World Health Organisation