TB deaths increase for second year in a row and cases rise for the first time in 20 years

New data released by the World Health Organization in the Global Tuberculosis Report 2022 showed an increase in TB incidence in 2021 for the first time in almost two decades and a further increase in mortality. This included 4,400 people dying per day, prompting the Stop TB Partnership to express alarm over an increasingly dire situation and the impact it will have on people, health care systems and economies.

The Stop TB Partnership urges the international community to understand the health threat posed by an airborne disease with drug-resistant strains which is showing an upward trend in mortality and incidence, and to take immediate action by providing urgently needed financial investment to combat TB.

The TB incidence rate – the number of new people developing TB per 100 000 population every year – rose by 3.6% between 2020 and 2021, reversing declines of about 2% per year for most of the past two decades.

Globally, the estimated number of deaths from TB increased between 2019 and 2021, reversing 14 years of decline between 2005 and 2019. In 2021, 1.6 million people died from TB, including 187 000 people with HIV. Between 2018-2021, 26.3 million people were treated for TB. This number is a far cry from the 40 million targets set for 2018-2022 at the 2018 UN High-Level Meeting on TB.

Dr Lucica Ditiu, executive director of the Stop TB Partnership, reflected: “It has become very clear that we now have a very dangerous situation on our hands with an airborne disease that is completely neglected, and which has been allowed to run rampant over the past two years. Transmission has gone up and infections have been left undiagnosed and untreated for longer periods, allowing tuberculosis to fester and develop into advanced forms of the disease and ultimately leading to higher death rates.”

“The World Health Organization report outlines this in black and white – and from seeing this in writing, every single human being should be up in arms and demand that their governments and decision-makers take immediate action, as everyone is now at risk,” she added.

The latest figures in the report predict that TB will replace COVID-19 as the world’s deadliest infectious disease killer. In fact, every day 4,400 people – or 3 people every minute – die from this preventable, treatable and curable disease.

The report did highlight some good news. TB treatment success rates were maintained during the pandemic, primarily in Africa.