24 March 2023
In support of World Tuberculosis (TB) Day 24 March, the Forum of International Respiratory Societies, of which the European Respiratory Society is a founding member, is determined to break the chain of TB transmission.
In 2021, 1.2 million children fell ill with TB globally[i]. On World TB Day, FIRS members are focusing on child TB, as children with TB are most likely to have been recently infected by an undiagnosed and untreated adult with infectious TB in their household or community. This is not right.
The key to breaking the chain of transmission and ending TB is to find and treat everyone in the community with TB. This simple approach will not only benefit those people who are found and treated, but also protects others from ever being infected with TB.
Despite TB being curable, progress is moving slowly. Over the last decade, TB deaths fell by only 2% per year. Deaths increased during the Covid-19 pandemic, as experts, equipment and money were diverted elsewhere. Sadly, TB will likely kill more people in low- and middle-income countries in 2023 than Covid-19, making it the world’s biggest infectious disease killer.[ii]
Prof Guy Marks, President and Interim Executive Director of FIRS member The Union, said: “We must use our expertise, evidence base and tools more effectively to make TB history, and that starts with finding and treating everyone with TB. We must stop children from ever getting TB.”
There remains a large global gap between the estimated number of people who fell ill with TB and the number of people newly diagnosed, with 4.2 million people not diagnosed with the disease, or not officially reported to national authorities in 2021, up from 3.2 million in 2019.[iii]
The Union has developed several resources to support healthcare workers in high TB burden settings with diagnosing children with TB and deciding when and how to start TB treatment in children and adolescents. The Union also coordinates the Child and Adolescent Tuberculosis Centre of Excellence, a virtual network of public health experts in child and adolescent TB in the sub-Sahara Africa region, providing a community of learning and practice.
Members’ TB resources
For more on the impact of TB and other respiratory diseases, see the Global Impact of Respiratory Disease Report.