On 14 October 2021, the World Health Organization (WHO) released its annual global report on tuberculosis (TB), which shows that TB deaths have risen for the first time in more than a decade due to the COVID-19 pandemic. According to the report, more people died from TB in 2020, with far fewer people being diagnosed and treated or provided with preventive treatment compared with 2019, and overall spending on essential services falling. The report features data on disease trends and the response to the epidemic from 197 countries and areas, including 182 of the 194 World Health Organization (WHO) member states.
The increase in the number of deaths occurred mainly in the 30 countries with the highest burden of TB. WHO modelling projections suggest the number of people developing TB and dying from the disease could be much higher in 2021 and 2022.
Challenges with providing and accessing essential TB services have meant that many people with TB were not diagnosed in 2020. The number of people newly diagnosed and those reported to national governments fell from 7.1 million in 2019 to 5.8 million in 2020.
The WHO estimate that some 4.1 million people currently suffer from TB but have not been diagnosed with the disease or have not officially reported to national authorities. This figure is up from 2.9 million people in 2019.
The report calls on countries to put in place urgent measures to restore access to essential TB services, and also calls for a doubling of investments in TB research and innovation as well as concerted action across the health sector and others to address the social, environmental and economic determinants of TB and its consequences.
Source: WHO, 14 October 2021