Tuberculosis: why the rise in cases is worrying

The Covid-19 pandemic has had a devastating effect on the fight against tuberculosis, slowing down its diagnosis and treatment. The disease, due to a bacillus which most often affects the lungs, is progressing again worldwide and is worrying scientists.

Cascading cases and questions. L’World Health Organization (WHO) recently warned of an increase in new cases of tuberculosis for the first time in more than twenty years.

In 2021, 10.6 million people developed this disease, an increase of 4.5% in one year. Deaths have also been on the rise since 2019, standing at 1.6 million in 2021, or +14%. The disease, which is transmitted to both children and adults, is caused by a bacterium that mainly attacks the lungs and is transmitted by the projection of bacilli in the air, in particular by coughing.

The infected person is not sick, has no symptoms and is not contagious. The tuberculosis is triggered in infected people with a weakened immune system, such as AIDS patients, but not exclusively. It is one of the deadliest diseases globally, and the number one killer of people living with HIV. HIV.

Resistant forms

Tuberculosis cases have thus been boosted by Covid-19 and its lockdowns and, according to the WHO assessment, the coronavirus pandemic continues to have a negative impact on access to diagnosis and treatment of tuberculosis. . Progress since 2019 has slowed, stalled or reversed. According to specialists, tuberculosis could even prove to be more deadly than Covid-19, in the months to come.

Even more worrying, the treatments not or poorly followed, due to more complicated access to care during the pandemic, have led to a drug-resistant form of the disease, alarmed the doctors and the health authorities. Clearly, they find themselves struggling with forms of tuberculosis that standard treatments are struggling to cure. To achieve this, “the care is heavier and requires significant vigilance”, explains Christian Lienhardt, epidemiologist doctor specializing in infectious and tropical diseases, quoted by The Parisian.

Another factor that explains this explosion of tuberculosis cases, the WHO indicates that the ongoing conflicts in Eastern Europe, Africa and the Middle East “have further aggravated the situation of vulnerable populations”. The institution also pointed to a drop in global spending on essential tuberculosis services, from $6 billion in 2019 to $5.4 billion in 2021. This is less than half of the global target, which is set at 13 billion per year.

In France, the main elements of the fight against tuberculosis remain the rapid identification of cases and the treatment of identified latent tuberculosis infections, supplemented by BCG vaccination, which protects above all against serious forms in children. “If the Covid-19 pandemic has taught us anything, it is that solidarity, determination, innovation and fair use of tools will allow us to overcome serious health threats. Let us apply these lessons to the fight against tuberculosis,” summarized and urged Tedros Adhanom Ghebreysus, Director General of WHO.

Tuberculosis: why the rise in cases is worrying