The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence has updated tuberculosis guidelines under a drive to eradicate the disease from the country.
While the incidence of TB in the UK has remained relatively stable since 2005, it is high when compared to other western European countries, with more than 6,500 cases reported across England in 2014.
The majority of cases can be prevented through public health measures and it is a curable condition if treated properly. But failure to do so can lead to drug resistance, making the disease much harder to treat, significantly increasing a person's risk of long-term complications or death.
As such, the guideline recommends raising and sustaining awareness of TB, and calls for healthcare professionals to work with the general public and at-risk groups - such the homeless and drug users - in particular. Crucially, the guidelines also raise the upper age limit for the treatment and diagnosis of latent TB from 35 to 65 years and under.
“TB is a disease that is treatable and curable, but it preys on the vulnerable. Those with compromised health and people suffering poor living conditions are at increased risk,” said Mark Baker, director for the Centre of Clinical Practice at NICE.
The new guidance “sets out the systematic and robust approach we need to reduce the current impact of TB, effectively treat those infected and reduce its spread,” he noted, adding that, together with Public Health England’s TB strategy will undoubtedly contribute to the goal of eliminating TB from England.”