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World TB Day 2023

(FILE) A tuberculosis patient at a TB hospital on World Tuberculosis Day
(FILE) A tuberculosis patient at a TB hospital on World Tuberculosis Day

With treatment, recovery rate stands at about 85 percent.  Without treatment, TB kills half of its victims.

World TB Day 2023
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March 24th is World Tuberculosis Day. The observance is an opportunity to shine a light on one of the world’s oldest and deadliest diseases. This year’s theme is “Yes! We can end TB!”

The date chosen for the observance, March 24, commemorates Dr. Robert Koch's 1882 discovery of Mycobacterium tuberculosis, the bacterium that causes the disease. It was the first step on the journey toward reining in this merciless killer, which culminated in the discovery and eventual mass production of antibiotics in the middle of the 20th century.

Tuberculosis, or TB, has plagued humans for thousands of years. Researchers found its sign in six thousand year old human skeletons, and in the spines of five thousand year old Egyptian mummies. Indeed, Mycobacterium tuberculosis is believed to have evolved along with people - and it is still evolving.

With the advent of the Industrial Revolution, the disease began to spread faster and more widely. As populations grew, people looking for employment began to migrate into cities. Overcrowded living conditions, lack of proper hygiene and nutrition, along with poor ventilation created the perfect conditions for the spread of this contagious illness. By the late nineteenth century, Tuberculosis was one of the most feared diseases, reaching epidemic levels in Europe and the Americas and causing one out of every seven deaths.

Today, TB is still the world’s deadliest infectious disease, causing the deaths of nearly 1.5 million people each year, most of them impoverished. It is no coincidence that the infection rate of TB within a population is one of the indicators of development. Those who lack access to good, nutritious food and to medical care are less likely to recover from TB, or to avoid it altogether. With treatment, recovery rate stands at about 85 percent. Without treatment, TB kills half of its victims.

“Everyone should be able to lead a healthy, productive, and fulfilling life. That’s our goal,” said President Joe Biden at last year’s 7th Replenishment of the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria.

“Let’s finish this fight together. Now is the moment to accelerate our efforts to reduce health inequities and to address barriers to access, including gender and human rights barriers; to build a more inclusive healthcare systems to leave no one behind; to end … tuberculosis … for good.”