Stop TB Partnership

Fast Facts on Tuberculosis (TB)

Tuberculosis is often called TB for short.

TB can infect any part of the body, but most often it attacks the lungs; it is then called pulmonary TB.

Symptoms of pulmonary TB are

  • a cough that lasts for more than 2-3 weeks
  • weight loss
  • fever
  • night sweats
  • loss of appetite
  • coughing up blood.

When people with TB cough, sneeze or spit, they propel the germs that cause TB into the air. A person can be infected by inhaling only a few of these germs.

Infected people may not feel ill or show any symptoms if their immune system can keep the bacteria under control. About one-third of the world's people are infected without showing symptoms. When someone's immune system is weakened, the chances of becoming sick are greater.

TB can be cured with medication... but untreated it can kill.

Treatment usually takes six months and costs as little as US$ 100 in many developing countries.

People with TB often suffer from discrimination and stigma, rejection and social isolation. And the disease is a major cause of poverty because people with TB are often too sick to work, and they and their families may have to pay for treatment.

Toll of TB

Global toll: Nine million people become ill with TB each year and more than a million and a half people die. In a single day, TB causes the equivalent in lives lost of 15 jetliner crashes.

Impact on women: TB is the number three cause of death among women of childbearing age and the number four cause of death among women of all ages. More than half a million women die of TB each year.

Impact on children: Half a million children become ill with TB year. There are 10 million children worldwide who had been orphaned because a parent died of TB.

Successes against TB

Since 1995, 46 million people have been successfully treated and up to 6.8 million lives saved through DOTS, a rigorous approach to treatment endorsed by the World Health Organization.

Challenges to fighting TB

Old weapons against a still vigorous adversary
  • TB drugs have not changed for decades;
  • Basic diagnosis of TB has not changed for more than a century. New genetic tests for TB make it possible to rapidly identify people who need TB treatment. But a simple quick test of the sort already available for diseases like HIV and malaria is needed urgently
  • There is no effective vaccine against TB.
HIV increases risk
  • People living with HIV are about 37 times more likely to develop TB than people free of HIV infection;
  • TB is the leading cause of death among people living with HIV in Africa. Worldwide one in four TB deaths is HIV-related;
  • Without treatment, the vast majority of people living with HIV who are sick with TB will die within a few months.
Drugs can lose their power
  • When people can’t or don’t take all their treatment TB bacilli become resistant to them and multidrug-resistant TB (MDR-TB) can develop. MDR-TB takes longer to treat and can only be cured with second-line drugs, which are more expensive and have more side effects.
  • Extensively drug-resistant TB (XDR-TB) can develop when people can't or don't take all treatment with these second-line drugs. XDR-TB is difficult and sometimes impossible to cure.
  • Both MDR-TB and XDR-TB can spread from person to person.