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  • About Half Of All People With TB In The World Are Found In PH And 7 Other Countries

    One of the most important things to remember about TB is that it is curable.
    by Doctors Without Borders .
About Half Of All People With TB In The World Are Found In PH And 7 Other Countries
ILLUSTRATOR courtesy of Doctors Without Borders
  • All over the world, people are worried about COVID-19. But while governments and humanitarian organizations are trying to respond to the pandemic, other diseases have not stopped spreading. One such disease is tuberculosis (TB).

    In 2018, the World Health Organization (WHO) stated that 10 million people get TB each year, and 1.5 million die from this disease. TB is one of the top 10 causes of death worldwide. About half of all people with TB can be found in these eight countries: Bangladesh, China, India, Indonesia, Nigeria, Pakistan, Philippines, and South Africa. Around 95% of deaths occur in low-income and middle-income countries.

    What is tuberculosis?

    TB is an infectious disease caused by a bacterium called Mycobacterium tuberculosis. Common symptoms of active lung TB include a cough that lasts more than three weeks, sometimes with sputum and blood, chest pains, weakness, weight loss, fever, and night sweats.

    Even though TB attacks the lungs most commonly, this disease can also occur outside the lungs (extrapulmonary), affecting other body parts, including the spine, kidneys, brain, and lymph nodes. In general, the infection progresses slowly.

    If a person who has TB disease fails to finish the recommended treatment, TB bacteria can develop into a drug-resistant strain (DR-TB). This means that it is more challenging to treat than drug-susceptible TB. In addition, some strains are resistant to multiple drugs (MDR-TB). The most severe form of the disease is referred to as XDR-TB.

    How do you get tuberculosis?

    When someone sick with TB disease of the lungs or throat coughs, speaks, laughs, sings, or sneezes, the TB bacteria passes from them through the air. When another person breathes them in, the bacteria can settle in the lungs and begin to grow.


    People with TB disease are most likely to spread it to people they spend time with daily, such as family members, friends, co-workers, or schoolmates.

    Anyone can get TB. But some people are at greater risk, such as those in prolonged close contact with someone infected and people living in crowded conditions.

    There is also a greater risk of TB among people who have conditions that weaken their immune system, such as diabetes. Another risk factor is poor health or diet due to lifestyle and other problems, such as drug misuse, alcohol misuse, or homelessness.

    What happens when you have tuberculosis?

    There are two types of TB conditions: latent TB infection and TB disease.

    When the TB bacteria enters the lungs, the body will detect the invasion and mobilizes its immune cells to neutralize the bacteria and other harmful organisms. If this process works, the person will have latent tuberculosis.

    As a result, the TB bacteria will live in the body without making the person sick. If the immune system loses the battle and the bacteria multiply, the person becomes sick with TB disease.

    One of the most important things to remember about TB is that it is curable.

    Many people who have latent TB infection never develop TB disease. But in people who have a weak immune system, the bacteria can become active, and TB disease can develop.

    How can you prevent or treat tuberculosis?

    TB is infectious and can be fatal if not treated properly. If you have latent TB infection, you may need medication to reduce the risk of later developing TB.

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    If you have TB disease, you need to take medications for at least six months, possibly as long as one year, to kill all the TB bacteria. Therefore, you must finish the medicine and take the drugs exactly as you are told.

    Otherwise, you may develop drug-resistant TB (DR-TB). Treatment for DR-TB takes two years. Unfortunately, most of the drugs used to treat TB have been around for decades. Some were not even developed initially for TB use or have toxic side effects.

    Another factor that complicates treatment is if a TB patient is immunocompromised or has another condition like HIV and diabetes. It’s also very possible to catch TB more than once.

    For example, reinfection can happen if someone is already clear of TB but later breathes in TB bacteria. TB can also recur as a result of a relapse of a previous infection.

    One of the biggest challenges in tuberculosis treatment is access to TB medication. Three new TB drugs were developed in the last decade — bedaquiline, delamanid, and, more recently, pretomanid. When bedaquiline was first authorized for use in 2012, it was the first DR-TB drug to be developed in more than 40 years.

    In 2018, Doctors Without Borders urged Johnson & Johnson (J&J), which holds patents on bedaquiline, to ensure affordable access to the drug for everyone who needs it to survive.

    In July 2020, J&J announced a reduced price of US$1.50, 32% lower than the previous lowest price. However, this price is only available to a list of countries determined by J&J.


    Doctors Without Borders continues to appeal to J&J to further reduce the price and offer the lower price to all countries with a high DR-TB burden so that more lives can be saved.

    In 2019, Medecins Sans Frontieres, also known as Doctors Without Borders (MSF), started 18,800 people on TB treatment, including 2,000 people with drug-resistant TB (DR-TB). To learn more about TB and other infectious diseases, visit the website.

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