Deaths due to tuberculosis have increased for the first time in over a decade reversing years of global progress, the World Health Organization said on Thursday citing the 2021 Global TB report. The UN health agency said in its annual report that progress towards TB milestones has been hit hard by the ongoing coronavirus disease (Covid-19) pandemic. Not only the number of people dying of tuberculosis increased last year, but also far fewer people were diagnosed and treated for infectious bacterial disease.
According to the report, tuberculosis was second only to Covid-19 as a leading cause of death from a single infectious agent. The impact of disruptions caused by the pandemic on new TB cases and related deaths could be “much worse” in 2021 and 2022, suggest modelling projections.
WHO director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said in a statement that the Global TB report confirms “our fears that the disruption of essential health services due to the pandemic could start to unravel years of progress against tuberculosis.”
“This is alarming news that must serve as a global wake-up call to the urgent need for investments and innovation to close the gaps in diagnosis, treatment and care for the millions of people affected by this ancient but preventable and treatable disease,” Tedros added.
The UN health agency estimates that about 4.1 million people currently suffering from TB have either went undiagnosed or have not officially reported to national authorities, up by 1.2 million from 2019. India, Indonesia, the Philippines, and China have contributed the most to the global reductions in TB notifications between 2019 and 2020.
Despite some success stories from some countries and regions, global TB targets are “mostly off-track”, according to the report.
“The immediate priority is to restore access to and provision of essential TB services such that levels of TB case detection and treatment can recover to at least 2019 levels,” the report concluded.